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Your child and Valentine’s Day

The meaning and importance of Valentine’s Day changes rapidly between elementary school and middle school.

What does Valentine’s Day mean? Seems it all depends on your perspective … and your age.

My daughter is in elementary school, so as far as she’s concerned, Valentine’s Day is another opportunity to decorate the house. She loves putting the red heart-shaped doilies in the window and seeing the Valentine’s Day flag go up in front of the house.

Another holiday means another party at school, too. There’s the hunt for the perfect cards to give classmates – mission accomplished with a box of Scooby Doo valentines. Then there’s the anticipation of treats and some games in class. All in all, it’s all about fun.

For our middle school son, it’s a different story. He has little interest in decorating the house and no school activities are pegged to the holiday.

Kids his age are still trying to figure out the whole boyfriend-girlfriend dynamic, so even the ones who are dating … or hanging out … or hooking up … or whatever they’re calling it at the moment … even they don’t seem to have put a lot of stock into Valentine’s Day.

Some parents had talked about turning the middle school’s winter dance into a sweetheart ball or valentine-centric theme. Thankfully, that idea quickly faded away.

Watching my two kids handle this holiday in such different ways just illustrates the huge transition that must be made between elementary school and middle school. For kids who find themselves immersed in the “dating” scene, such as it is in middle school, there’s no way to really now how to handle this event. How much is too much? Too little?

Meanwhile, those who are still on the sideline, this just makes them feel that much more awkward.

Our kids are looking to us for cues on how to handle these situations. One cue we offer is not making too big of a deal out of something like Valentine’s Day. Our message is subtle, but simple – love isn’t celebrated once or twice a year, it’s something to be cherished every day.

By not going overboard, we help the kids keep it in perspective.

Another thing is that we don’t hesitate to talk to them about it. Even asking something as simple as, “hey, are any of your friends doing anything for Valentine’s Day?” might get the conversation going.

And there’s nothing wrong with doing something at home. My parents still send both kids a little valentine card. Letting your kids know it’s OK to show affection to family members is important and something that kids in middle school are often reticent to do, even though they want to do it.

So make it a little easier for them. Wrap Cupid’s bow around that!

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