02/06/2013 11:49 am ET Updated Apr 08, 2013

Lessons Learned from Valentine's Day

Valentine's Day is believed to be the second most celebrated holiday around the world. Pretty amazing, given all of those "Hallmark Holiday" references many have given it over the years. True, some of those pessimists were bad boyfriends and husbands who hated to shop, but February 14th has also been targeted by genius marketing campaigns triggering the guilt and competitiveness of consumers. Still, there are plenty of important lessons to learn from Valentine's Day.

We learn these lessons from the time we are in kindergarten. Some come from heartache, some from parental guidance and others from personal insight. There's nothing wrong with a gift-giving holiday to celebrate love, but if we can become better people in the process, that's the real gift.

Everyone gets a card.

When it came to classroom cards, my mom had one rule: If card-giving happens, the student gives one to everyone in the elementary school class. When I became a parent, it became my rule for Valentine's Day and birthday parties. Being excluded can be a form of bullying. It may have been decades ago, but I can still recall those elementary school peers who received one or two cards in their homemade boxes, while others squealed in delight at their overflowing bounty. Parents should consider the impact of their children's actions upon other children. It's a card, not a prom invitation.

Gifts don't have to be expensive to be treasured.

Macaroni necklaces, cards made of paper lace doilies and love notes can be special gifts. After her mother's death, author Mary Lou Quinlan learned that lesson first-hand when she found boxes of notes her mother had left behind. Quinlan shares her story in the New York Times Bestseller The God Box: Sharing My Mother's Gift of Faith, Love and Letting Go.

You don't need a date, a gift or a partner to be special.

Contrary to media messages and pushy relatives and friends, you don't need a romantic relationship to be your best self. A bad relationship is worse than no relationship. Value yourself. Build a strong support network. Ask for help when you need it. And don't be so intent on romantic relationship seeking that you lose sight of the wonderful people and valuable parts of your life that bring you joy.

Last-minute is sometimes too late.

Valentine's Day restaurant reservations book up. Flower bins dry up. And greeting card options dwindle. Unless you prefer to be faced with nasty-colored mums and a card that says "To The Love of My Life" for someone you've known for 18 days (OK, so you're sure he or she is "the one," but just bear with me here), start a few days ahead, gentleman. And before accusing me of being sexist, head out to a card store or florist at 6 p.m. on February 14th. Do a head count by gender and get back to me.

Love and respect people every day and you won't have to scramble to compensate on February 14th.

Happy Valentine's Day!