Valentine’s Day will be here soon. Your child may be seeing and hearing signs of this sweet, pink and red-bedecked holiday and pose the question, “Mom, what is Valentine’s Day?” The best way to teach your child the meaning of Valentines’ Day is to emphasize the meaning of love.
The origins and traditions of the day are unclear and include both Christian and pagan traditions. Saint Valentine was a 3rd-century clergyman who ministered to persecuted Christians. He was eventually martyred and his body buried on February 14th. The pagan celebration of Lupercalia, a fertility festival dedicated to the Roman god of agriculture, took place in the middle of the month at the ides of February. It included the pairing of bachelors and maidens for the year, often ending in the couple’s marriage. Today, St. Valentine’s Day is only celebrated in a few countries including the U.S., Australia, France, Canada, Mexico and the United Kingdom. While living in Australia, I also learned the Aussies treat the holiday more as a couple’s celebration and doesn’t include festivities at school nor in the community.
In the U.S., Valentines Day is a fun and simple holiday for children. Teaching the meaning of the holiday by keeping love as the common thread is easy for children to understand and gives them the opportunity to participate. To encourage your child to take part in the Valentine’s Day celebration, take a few minutes to sit down together and chat. Encourage your child to think of, then name those he loves or is grateful for. The names could include friends, a pet, grandpa, a teacher. Acknowledge the fact that we like to make those we love happy. Get him thinking of a way he can let those on his list know he loves them. There are many ways to celebrate and express love. Ideas could include telling them, making a card, baking cookies or collecting flowers. A simple act helps your child learn to enjoy making other people happy end encourages giving without getting anything in return.
When a child is involved in a project it takes on deeper meaning. When he has chosen a way to let those he loves know, let your child take the lead preparing and making the gift. Lend a hand only when needed. This independence will help him understand the holiday better than if mom does everything for him.
I remember a time when my preschooler had a crush on a girl in his class and he told me he wanted to giver her something. I suggested he go outside and gather a few flowers and pretty things from the garden. He trundled off and came back with a small collection of grasses, a couple of wild flowers and a few twigs clutched in his hand. I tied them together with a ribbon and we set it in a glass of water to give to her the next school day. Supporting his heartfelt request, luckily I was listening, gave him an opportunity to experience the true joy of giving.
When your child’s gift is ready, let him deliver it to the recipient. This enables him to experience the reaction of the receiver. Be an example yourself, letting him see the smile it brings to your face, as well.
Take the opportunity of St. Valentines’ Day to teach your child the meaning of love. It will encourage his natural need to make those he loves happy. You will not only help your child learn to enjoy making others happy but he will also realize he has the power to do so with simple tokens of affection from the heart.