Heart Hands

by Alexis Goffe

The unfortunate truth is: Valentine’s Day is not a special day of love, flowers or chocolates for everyone. What is even more unfortunate is that the negative feelings of being unloved, not special, rejected, lonely or even unattractive on Valentine’s Day can be experienced by our children. This truth can be extremely hard for children as early as prep/primary school. A guidance counsellor once told me that his granddaughter who is in Grade 2 was heard asking a male classmate, “Do you love me? It’s ok, I can handle the truth!” Being hurt knows no age; or gender for that matter. We tend to think that Valentine’s Day is a potentially challenging time for girls. However, boys are just as susceptible to these feelings as girls.

Here are four suggestions for handling your child’s experiences around Valentine’s Day:-

Listen

Find out if your child is experiencing any feelings surrounding Valentine’s Day. Do they have plans? Are they planning to ask someone to be their valentine? How are they feeling about having a valentine or not having a valentine? During this conversation, listen to your child and listen well. Give them your undivided attention and create a space for your child to be open and honest.

Offer support

Once you know the child’s thoughts and feelings surrounding Valentine’s Day, thank them for allowing you into their world. Let them know how important it is to be able to tell safe people about their feelings in good and bad times. You can do two things at this point: i) Ask them how best you can support them or ii) Ask for their permission to give them some advice.

Validate feelings

This is one of my favourites. Let your child know it is ok to feel down if they do not have a valentine. One of the best ways to normalize their feelings is to tell them a story of a time you experienced similar feelings and how you handled them. It is important not to trivialize your child’s feelings or categorize it as “being young.” Legitimize their feelings as much as possible.

Encourage family time

Times of loneliness for our children are prime opportunities to reinforce the love you have for your child. Planning family activities on Valentine’s Day can be a great way to lessen negative feelings and strengthen the family bond. Possible activities include watching a movie, having a special family dinner, playing a game, creating an arts and craft project or seeing a play.

Parents must provide an environment of love, acceptance and warmth for their children. Show them the type of love and respect you want them to expect, demand and experience in their future relationships.

We know children may want to find love and find it quick. So parents, take this opportunity to remind your child that – while they can’t hurry love, they will just have to wait and it doesn’t come easy – the love you have for them is already present and everlasting.

Alexis Goffe is a counselling psychologist at Caribbean Tots to Teens. He can be reached at alexis@caribbeantotstoteens.com