02/10/2012 03:28 pm ET | Updated Apr 11, 2012

Valentine's Day for Kids: Should It Be Rated PG?


Valentine's Day can teach kids beautiful messages about taking time to appreciate those we love. This is a day that can make them feel cherished. Kids can learn how good it feels to make someone else feel great -- we can reinforce the friendships and loves they have.

Or, Valentine's Day can be about social pressure and trying on mature relationships before kids are ready. Children are easily caught up in the competition of sending and receiving valentines, as well as being occasionally overwhelmed by the romantic words and ideas that are bandied about on this holiday.

Now I'm not bashing VD (sorry, bad medical joke). Flowers, gifts, a night for romance, etc etc ... fine for us grown-ups.

The point I'm trying to make here is that Valentine's Day is like swimmies for kids to use as they learn to float in the big pool of love and relationships. And, I think they might be drowning. Can you see a link between:

  • Spending hours on a beautiful valentine for a boy you've never actually spoken to and ... sending an inappropriate text message to get someone's attention in a few years?

  • Writing "I love you" on a piece of paper because it's expected and ... saying "I love you" as a teen because someone else wants you to, or thinking it might get you something you want?
    • Making a token of love for everyone in the class "so no one's feelings get hurt" and ... caring more about being nice than being strong as an adult?

  • A boy only sending Valentine's to girls and ... pretending to be straight when he's not?
  • The best thing about being the parent is that we can use the power of VD for good!

    So, you may be asking yourself, what the heck can we do to help our kids express love and affection?

    • Talk to an older relative on the phone.
    • Thank a sibling for spending time playing with you.
    • Help -- without being asked.
    • Read to a younger brother or sister.
    • Hug.
    • Use thoughtful words.
    • Turn away from a pointless argument.
    • Hold back a harsh word.
    • Write a thank you to a teacher for a lesson learned.
    • Make a friendship gift.
    • Draw a picture of friends together and share it.

    Many parents worry that kids are growing up too fast. Let's celebrate Valentine's Day in an intentional way, and leave the romance-practice for the teen years. What do you say?