Teaching Your Kids The True Meaning Of Valentines Day

young woman peeking throught heart-shaped cutout at little boy
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Most elementary school students see Valentines Day either as a popularity contest, something related to that embarrassing business between girlfriends and boyfriends, or an excuse to eat candy. Either way, school-age kids can get kind of squirmy about it.

Why? Well, if the emphasis is on popularity, then your coolness quotient can be measured by the stack of paper hearts you receive, which is exhilarating for the popular kids and humiliating for the unpopular ones. If the emphasis is on that sexy stuff see on TV, kids may feel anxious, embarrassed, overstimulated or all of the above.

So how can parents talk to school-age kids about Valentines Day? Well, there's not much use in denying that it has something to do with romantic love. After all, they're not stupid. However, parents and teachers can offer kids an alternative understanding of Valentines Day ... one that helps counter the overstimulation and anxiety of social competition. 

Let your kids know that Valentines Day is also about a kind of love that has nothing to do with sexiness or popularity. It's about expressing love through kindness. Most children will know what you are talking about. They know that their parents love them and sometimes show it by doing nice things for them. Chances are they are also familiar with the experience of feeling good about themselves after having done something kind for another.

But confusion about this word "love" with its double meaning may still get in the way. So try using the phrase "care for" to mean treating someone with kindness by doing something thoughtful for that person. Keep reading.

More Valentines Day Ideas From YourTango:

Remind your kids that while kindness towards friends and family may come naturally, Valentines Day is also an opportunity to show kindness toward people you don't know very well at all. Reinforce the message by telling them about Saint Valentine, a man who was thrown into prison a long time ago for helping people get married, but who was so kind that he healed the blind daughter of the man who was his jailer. 

All kids are capable of this kind of love, but their natural empathy can be suppressed in the face of social struggles like sibling rivalry and peer pressure.

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Remind your kids that showing compassion is not as simple as giving someone a card or some candy. Reaching out to someone who didn't receive as many pink hearts, on the other hand, is a great way to show compassion. True kindness requires paying attention to others and their feelings. Ask yourself: What can I do to help him/her feel better?

If you read books to your children, there will be opportunities to explore their natural compassion. Ask what the characters in the story might be feeling, and if they are struggling with sadness, loneliness, frustration, or fear, what might make them feel better? This is a good place to start.

While other people are busy with the mushy version of Valentines Day, you and the children in your life can be quietly paying attention to opportunities for emotional growth. Happy Valentines Day!