Valentine’s Day has traditionally focused on romantic love. But it also provides parents with a great opportunity to teach children to understand and appreciate all kinds of relationships. The benefits of healthy interpersonal relationships are far too many to list here, and have impacts on both mental and physical wellbeing.
Love for Self. Simply put, we can’t love others until we love ourselves. Fostering our own wellbeing grows our ability to establish and maintain healthy interpersonal relationships. We can set a good example by taking care of ourselves and identifying our own worth. We must be comfortable expressing our needs and wants, so that we can model that behavior for our children. Parents should know it’s okay to focus on their own self-care, happiness and well-being. Additionally, encourage children to practice self-care by choosing one positive thing they will do for themselves on this day and every day.
Love for Others. Valentine’s Day can be an opportunity for parents to encourage their children to practice love that isn’t romantic, but is essential. Establish a tradition of volunteering at a l shelter, giving to a charity, visiting retired loved ones and friends, or performing an act of kindness for a fellow classmate.
Knowing When to Let Go. Setting personal boundaries and respecting the boundaries of others is at the core of any healthy relationship, and fostering that understanding early on will help your children throughout life. Have your children write down the things they value within themselves and others, and encourage them to honor those values by setting healthy boundaries for themselves and honoring those set by others. If those boundaries aren’t respected, help your child learn when a relationship should end or at least change. Give them the tools to explore healthy problem solving and decision making, including how to end a relationship with kindness and respect. You might help them to acknowledge their emotions, and work through them. These skills will serve them well with friendships, at school and later on in professional relationships.
Understanding Loss or Rejection. Your child might feel sad, confused and even rejected on Valentine’s Day. Maybe they didn’t get as many valentines as others did, or they didn’t get one from their crush. Acknowledge the grief that they feel in the moment without minimizing or overemphasizing it, and encourage hope for the future. Help your child consider exploring healthy risk-taking if, for instance, they’d like to reach out in friendship to a new classmate.
While healthy romantic relationships are important in life, Valentine’s Day provides an opportunity for parents to show their kids that this day doesn’t just have to be about romantic love; our lives are enriched when we “love well” and whenever we experience a truly deep connection with others.