As soon as Christmas clearance sales wind down the decor in stores turns to red and white. Hearts and cupids dominate the display windows and seasonal isles. I’m old enough to remember bringing a shoe box to school to decorate with doilies, tissue paper, construction paper and ribbon. We cut a slot in the top so our friends could “mail” us Valentines on party day. The night before the party, children spent agonizing hours selecting just the right card for each child in their class, not too mushy for the opposite sex (except for that special person) but still friendly enough to be kind. I don’t think anyone uses shoe boxes any more but, at Preschool, we decorate white bags to collect Valentines from our friends. The tradition lives on.
Some would say this is just a Hallmark holiday. Retailers want our money. They make us feel guilty if we don’t lavish our loved ones with fancy cards, flowers, candy, jewelry, ......whatever! There is that going on, no doubt. However, I would argue there is a positive side to the day. This is a chance for parents, grandparents and teachers to encourage children to show appreciation for the people around them, both other children and adults. Children are born naturally egocentric. They can’t take care of their needs themselves so they must depend on others to recognize their call for help and respond by feeding them, napping them, talking to them, cuddling them. You know the routine very well. As they grow, children become aware of others. They want to socialize with others and be considered “part of the group.” At home and with extended family they recognize signs of affection and we encourage them to return this affection with hugs, kisses, high fives or whatever is appropriate at the time. Valentine’s Day is one of our opportunities to talk about thanking all our friends and family for loving us and being our friend. (This doesn’t necessarily come naturally.) Giving a simple purchased or hand made card can be a good way to say, “I appreciate you!” The cost of the Valentine greeting is not the important thing. It is the thought behind the greeting that counts. We can all give signs of friendship and love to those around us! We adults can point the way to positive relationships and help our children see the good in others more readily then the bad.
Happy Valentine’s Day all month long!