Your kids may be too young to date, but that doesn’t mean they’re too young for Valentine’s Day angst. School parties, public card exchanges and marketing hoopla can lead to situations more sticky than sweet. Even seasoned parents can find themselves confused by changing attitudes towards candy and young romance.

If the lead-up to February 14 is making your palms sweat, here are some answers to commonly asked questions:

  • Does my child need to give valentines to everyone in her class? Yes, if she’s handing out valentines during school hours. Selective giving hurts feelings.
  • What if my child doesn’t want to give a valentine to everyone? It’s all or none in the classroom. If your child just can’t bring herself to give one to everyone, mail valentines to the chosen few at their homes so no one feels excluded.
  • Does anyone make homemade valentines anymore? Yes, and you don’t have to be Martha Stewart to produce one-of-a-kind keepsakes. Get out the colored construction paper, safety scissors, glue, and an assortment of markers, buttons, plastic jewels, stickers and fabric scraps. Your child will flex her creativity muscles and brush up her fine motor skills.
  • I’m craft-challenged. Can’t we just buy a box of cards at the store? Of course! Valentine’s Day is supposed to be fun, not add another item to your to-do list. Try personalizing store-bought cards by using a hole-punch to make a hole in the card, threading a ribbon through the hole, and tying a small treat to the front. Let your child decorate the cards with glitter glue and sign his own name.
  • Is a card enough, or are we expected to give candy and treats? A card is plenty, but a small treat is always appreciated! Check with your child’s teacher to see what’s allowed.
  • What if our school has a no-candy policy? Other treats to consider: stickers, temporary tattoos, small boxes of raisins, fruit leathers, toy jewelry, individual packs of crayons or play dough, snack packs of crackers, paper dolls or airplanes, party favors…
  • Do we have to give the teacher a valentine? If you’re sending one to everyone else in the class, it would be a nice gesture. A card saying thanks is plenty, though–skip the flowers and chocolate.
  • What should my child give his grandparents, siblings, other parent…? When it comes to affairs of the heart, it really is the thought that counts. A true token of love is personalized, so help your child think about the things the recipient most enjoys. That might mean a hand-painted card for Grandma, a gift certificate for a backrub for dad, a homemade, heart-shaped sugar cookie for big brother, and the loan of a treasured toy for baby sis – and just brainstorming teaches your child a lesson in empathy and generosity.