Valentine’s Day is a great opportunity for people to express love and appreciation for others, yet it is also a holiday where both young and old can get caught up in the giving (and getting) of candy, flowers, and other material signs of affection. Challenge your child to use his head and heart instead of his piggy bank this year to recognize the important people in his life. Here are a few ideas to help get started:
Grandparents Grandparents feel valuable when they can share things with their grandchildren, so why not nudge your child to appreciate his elders’ special skills? Have him spend an afternoon with grandma learning how to make a favorite family recipe or ask grandpa to show some old home movies.
Likewise, children can increase their sense of accomplishment, as well as show affection, by providing services to older relatives. Encourage your child to ask her grandparents what type of help they may need. Perhaps grandpa still isn’t quite sure how to send e-mail on his computer or grandma would love to look at some scrapbooks if someone could carry them up from the basement.
Parents Start a household tradition this Valentine’s Day by creating a gratitude journal. (Daily planners work well, and they are incredibly cheap this time of year.) On each day in February, write down something you love or appreciate about your child, such as “Thank you for doing your homework without being reminded” or “I enjoy the time we spend watching movies together on Friday nights.” Then, have your child do the same for Mom and Dad. Everyone may find they enjoy the practice so much that they want to continue it the rest of the year!
Siblings Perhaps one of the greatest gifts older siblings can give younger ones is their time. What little sister wouldn’t love it if her big sister offered to paint her nails for the school Valentine’s Day party? Likewise, an older brother could make his younger sibling’s day by showing him how to throw a new type of pitch.
To encourage your smaller child to make loving gestures, ask her to think about what things she could do to make life easier for others in the house. Perhaps she could do a better job of cleaning her half of a shared room. Maybe she could politely leave the room when someone is talking on the phone. Whether it is taking over another’s chore for a day or letting someone else use the computer first, simple actions can have powerful meaning.
Other Important People Chances are that your child will beg you to buy pre-printed Valentine’s Day cards for her classmates. While they are a fun, relatively inexpensive way to share the joy of the holiday, see if your child will take the sentiment further than just signing a name by writing a short, personalized message. If there isn’t room on the Valentine itself (they seem to be smaller every year), use the envelope or include a small note to say things like “Bus rides are fun with you around” or “Thanks for helping me when I had trouble in math.” Don’t forget to include a special message for the teacher that recognizes specific things she does to help make learning fun.
And don’t just toss those few remaining boxed cards after picking out ones for friends! Encourage your child to give them to other special people, especially those who may usually go unnoticed. Brighten a crossing guard’s day with a Valentine and a note saying “Thanks for helping to keep me safe, even in cold weather” or make a bus driver smile with a card expressing appreciation for waiting that extra minute when you were running late. Simple yet meaningful gestures will not only make your child’s Valentine’s Day more special this year, they will instill an “attitude of gratitude” that will hopefully last a lifetime.