I got a communication from my daughter’s school that said the following – “Dear Ma, Nina picked a boy for valentine’s day and you are required to buy him a gift. She is also required to come to school on the 14th dressed in red and white because we are celebrating love.” I have not replied because I am unsure of how I feel about this.
That was a Facebook status update made by a mummy friend a few days ago and I thought I would do a quick post about valentine’s days with children. The following thoughts and ideas are my opinion. I don’t think there is a right or wrong way to deal with this kind of situations. We just have to decide what works with our belief system and what we are comfortable with.
I will start by saying that I am a gift giver and receiver. I mentioned in the last post that I believe in making memories and marking special events. Some of my favorite memories from boarding school (age 8-15) include valentine’s day. My mum always sent me a gift and a card. Sometimes it was a small teddy bear and other times it was a rose, a mug, some “home food” or a letter but it did not matter what it was, it just meant so much that she made that effort.
That said, I don’t believe Valentine’s day should be just about gift buying or celebrating love of the opposite sex. The child in the above scenario is less than three years old and at this age, I think It should be about teaching what love is and creating memories in non-commercial ways.
Some Non-Commercial Ways to Celebrate with your Child
– Talk about it: Whether we like it or not, February 14th is valentine’s day. Schools, shops, signs, TV and the world in general will tell this to your child. Instead of letting him/her form her opinion from the media or from strangers, why not talk to them about it? Tell him/her what it is and what your beliefs are about it and then dialogue about it. This is also an awesome way to see what your child already knows and thinks about love. For example, Here are some of the things I would talk to or ask my child about-
- *Tell: it is a day about love and a day to celebrate it specially even though we celebrate it everyday. It’s kind of like Christmas (if you are Christian or celebrate it), we celebrate Jesus everyday but Christmas is a period to celebrate him specially
- *Ask: What do you think love is?
- *Ask: Who/what do you love?
- *Ask: How can you show them you love them?
- *Tell: Mummy and Daddy will always love you!
- *Ask: Who do you think needs love? Is there someone in your school who seems unhappy? has no friends? doesn’t have lunch? always wears torn clothes and shoes?
- *Ask: How can you show the needy love?
- *Talk about:Love for extended family, friends, pets etc.
*For the questions above, I always find it surprising how deep children are. It is easy to want to tell them what love is and who they should love and how to show love but I encourage you to ask questions and listen to their answers and then, you can fill in the gaps. This activity should be a discussion/conversation not a lecture.
– Make the day special: If you are so inclined, there are so many ways to do this.
- Make something: This can be as simple as a card for mummy and daddy or a garland like the one in the previous post. There are so many crafts on the internet for different ages.
- Take an inventory of your heart: I first saw this idea in Maria Bruehl’s book “Playful Learning” and I think it is a fabulous idea for children ages 2 and above. It is basically a pictorial representation of one’s heart and what matters. To do this with a child, you would first talk about what a map is (consider the child’s age and explain accordingly). Draw a heart or have the child draw one and then fill it up by assigning spaces to the people, things or memories that matter to you. I think this is a great activity to revisit annually and compare every few years. I did a quick one to show you an example and it was interesting to think about what matters to me and what should be assigned some space. For the younger child, they can draw pictures of the things or tell you so that you write for them. This is also a great activity for a child who is learning how to write. I will include some link at the end of this post of other examples on the web.
- Cook/bake something together: Who says you have to eat at a restaurant on valentine’s day? Why not make a meal or bake something as a family? Children as young as 15 months can help out in the kitchen if the environment is prepared properly (expect future posts). It can be as simple as arranging fruits and vegetables in a heart shape or baking pastries. Whatever you make, make it special by arranging the table , lighting some candles and enjoying dinner as a family.
- Visit someone you love: Is there a loved one who you owe a visit? Why not make this the day you visit them? Grand parents? friends?
- Visit someone who needs love: This can be sick people in hospitals, motherless babies, old people in a home (they love children!). This is a great way to instill a giving and caring heart in a child.
– Show love and Spend Time Together
In a country where very few children ever hear the words “I love you” from their parents and where most of their care is provided by house helps, I think we should use valentines day to communicate verbally and show our children how much we love them. This way, when they are offered “love” from negative sources, they are not tempted or deceived because they know what real love is and receive it from the right source. Best of all, this costs no money!
Valentine’s day should not just be about gift giving or red and white, it should be about knowing and showing love! Maybe the change we seek as a country will come if we teach our children what real love is and how to show it. We should teach them to love their neighbors as themselves so that they grow up knowing that their words and actions affect others. Imagine a Nigeria where we all think this way, where everyone thinks of the less privileged and shares their time, wealth and possessions with others. For me, this is what love is about and this is what we can teach our children this valentine’s day.
What are your thoughts on valentine’s day? Do you have any memories from childhood about valentine’s? How would you react to that message from your child’s school? I would love to hear from you!
Live a GoodLife!