Kids, especially girls, experience quite a lot of pressure around this time of year. Our culture romanticizes Valentine’s Day as a time when romance blossoms, secret crushes are revealed, and every girl can find that special someone.
I remember feeling the strain of Valentine’s Day when I was walking the halls of my high school, both when I was facing Valentine’s Day without a boyfriend and with. I don’t know if schools do anything like this anymore, but my school had a fundraiser where you could purchase roses and send them anonymously to people in your class (or with a note if you were bold). Red roses meant “I love you”; yellow roses meant “you’re my friend”; and, white roses meant “you have a secret admirer.” Some of the girls in my class would have thirty or so different roses by the end of the day, with several red roses, secret admirer roses and a copious amount of friendship roses. Others in my class would receive one or two friendship roses and that was it. I was always so anxious and hopeful to see what I would get on that day, and almost every Valentine’s Day, even when I received plenty of roses, I always felt a little sad and unfulfilled. In high school, Valentine’s Day can be a time when a high schooler can feel pretty inadequate and insecure.
I was recently talking to a teenager about her Valentine’s Day experiences, and she told me that last year’s Valentine’s Day was the best. She and her boyfriend were broken up, and her parents encouraged her to have a party with her girlfriends instead of spending the night mourning the relationship. Her parents gave her a budget to spend on décor and food and bought a few age-appropriate chick flicks for her and her friends to watch. She spent so much time on party planning that she was much less focused on being “alone” and without a boyfriend. On actual Valentine’s Day, she and her parents made a huge breakfast together and her dad gave her some flowers and both parents gave her notes affirming her and reminding her of how valuable she is in God’s eyes. As she and her mom were getting things ready for her night with her girlfriends, her mom told her about how she felt in high school and how the Lord worked things together to bring her mom and dad together in the right time. Later that night, the girlfriends had a great time, and they all spent the night—since it was a school day, it was especially fun. This year, this teenager is dating again, and she feels a bit tangled up regarding what to do about Valentine’s Day. As she explained to me, it’s really hard to pick out something “special” for her boyfriend, and most of the girls in her class that are dating get lingerie or try to plan a sexy evening for the guy they’re with. Fortunately, this teenager continues to have a good relationship with her parents, and they have kept the lines of communication open—her mom and dad check in regularly with her at their family dinners, and they’ve worked hard to have a hospitable home for her girlfriends and her boyfriend to be. This Valentine’s Day, she’s leaning towards having a bunch of people over to her house again—her boyfriend, her girlfriends, their boyfriends and friends, so help relieve some of the pressure.
I share this story with you because I think that, as parents, it can be helpful for our kids if we recognize where they’re at—if we address the loneliness and pressure they are feeling to have a perfect Valentine’s Day, it legitimizes their feelings and gives us an entry point into having a dialogue with them about healthy love and sexuality. I loved that this teenager’s parents didn’t leave her hanging—they helped her to have a fun Valentine’s Day experience that didn’t involve hooking up, lingerie, or sitting alone in depression. They helped her recognize that she has good friends and parents that love her deeply.
Chances are, if we leave our kids to figure out Valentine’s Day on their own, without any oversight, they’re going to run into some tough situations and may make some decisions that they will later regret. Take time this month to get a pulse on how your son or daughter is doing, and help them remember that ultimately God’s love it the only love that is truly fulfilling.