Avoiding the Valentine’s Day Popularity Contest
Valentine’s Day is a time we can show love and appreciation for people in our lives, but there is always the dread of rejection or feeling left out. It is a balance of teaching children to love and be kind to others, but avoiding children falling into the habit of not being able to recognize meaningful gift giving.
At Rainbow Child Care, our classrooms have Valentine’s Day parties, but we try to avoid having it be competitive and centered on popularity. We strive to create a comfortable environment in each classroom, so that no child ever feels alienated or unwelcome. When we use the strategy of broad gift giving, we try to use it as a learning opportunity to help children appreciate differences amongst themselves and to build tolerance for their peers.
Here are some ideas on how to help your child get the most out of Valentine’s Day:
- Discuss the policy of giving a valentine to everyone with your child. Talk about how it feels to have your feelings hurt and how we don’t want to make people in our life feel that way, even if they are not our best friend.
- If your child does not want to give a valentine to someone in their class that they do not like, listen to their feelings. Talk to them about why they feel that way about the child and how they can work on solving conflicts that may arise between them. Giving a nice valentine to someone may help them see you as a friend and reduce future conflict!
- If your child decides they don’t want to give anyone a valentine, don’t force them to do it. Instead talk about why they may be making that choice. Gently remind them of how they may feel if everyone else in the class is giving valentines out and they are not.
- Encourage your child to make valentines for their classmates, rather than buying them. Your child can use a variety of recycled materials to customize a card for each person in their life and can even make them for family members too. Make sure they start designing them early enough so the night of February 13th is not too stressful!
- If your child wants to make a special valentine or do something above and beyond for a best friend, make a special time for them to do this during a play date. Avoid having it happen at school, so other children do not feel sad or left out if they also consider your child to be their “best friend”.
Love and caring are both very abstract concepts and may be hard for young children to grasp. If children constantly see compassion, respect, and kindness throughout the year they will realize that it is about more than just giving material gifts. Encourage your child to be thoughtful and kind to their friends and family all year, not just for Valentine’s Day.