This article was originally posted on Psychology Today.
When we think about celebrating Valentine’s Day, most of us think of our spouse, our partner, or our would-be sweetheart. We hunt for the romantic, the gifts or gestures that assert or reconfirm our love. Yet the day is about much more than flowers and candy in heart-shaped boxes, especially if you have children.
How you treat your partner on Valentine’s Day speaks loudly to your offspring. They are watching and absorbing the ways you recognize and celebrate your adult bond. How inclusive you are of your children influences how they will likely act toward those they love in the future.
On Valentine’s Day
When you add children into the Valentine’s Day mix, making Valentines with them to give to their friends may be the smallest part. Being warm and loving to your grownup Valentine is as important as expressing love for your young Valentines. Here are suggestions for creating a special Valentine’s Day in your house:
- Wake everyone up with a Happy Valentine’s Day greeting and ask each family member to be your Valentine. It doesn’t matter if older offspring think you are silly.
- Get in the spirit—wear something red.
- Hang a red or pink paper heart on the refrigerator or bathroom mirror with the words: Love YOU! and include your partner’s and children’s names.
- Give an extra long Valentine hug as everyone goes off to school or work.
- Ask your children to help you decide what they think their father or mother would like: perhaps coupons. This coupon good for “Your choice of the next four rental movies,” “Organizing your papers, tools or kitchen drawers,” “Cleaning out your car,” or “Four back rubs.”
- Have your son or daughter help you wrap that special surprise (if you exchange gifts) for your partner.
- Give your children a small, token gift as well. Could be a heart-shaped rock, candy hearts, a bookmark with a Valentine message, a deck of cards (that you use to play a game with them)…
- Make heart-shaped pancakes. Okay, so they may not be perfectly formed when you pour batter into the pan, but the strange shapes make your attempt at hearts all the more memorable.
- Be excited about preparing a special Valentine’s dinner…and cook it with your children’s assistance.
- Think red (and pink) when you prepare dinner-apples, red onion, red grapes, strawberries or raspberries, strawberry ice cream.
- Start a Valentine’s Day cake tradition. Buy heart-shaped baking pans or make a paper heart pattern to cut out a heart on round layers. Short cut: stop at the bakery for cupcakes with pink icing.
- Give each child a Valentine’s card signed by both of you to underscore you are a loving family unit. Leave cards at their places at the breakfast or dinner table. Or, draw red hearts on paper napkins putting one at each place at the dinner table.
- Add a few candy hearts or chocolate kisses the empty cereal bowls.
- Cut bread into heart shapes to make Valentine French toast for breakfast.
- Scribble a Valentine on a napkin in red ink to pack in your child’s school lunch.
On the 364 other days
How thoughtful and affectionate you are to your grownup Valentine and your children the rest of the year makes a lasting impression. Just double up on Valentine’s Day and your sweethearts-in-training will get the message.