Valentine’s Day 2013 A bit more digital but just as sweet for everyone

Have you looked at candy hearts lately? Talk about a sign of the times! I hope the makers of those hears keep a box each year because they are the best documentation we have of the state of teen and tween life from year to year.

Among the typical sayings: I love you, Call Me,  Rock On, Marry Me, Puppy Love, First Kiss, Honey Pie, Awesome, Head over Heels, Friends 4 Ever, Good Times, Heart Throb are hearts that tell us where kids are today in communicating with each other: Email me, Tweet Me, Text Me, Friend Me.

Let’s be honest…kids today are not likely to pick up a phone and profess their deep like for each other. But, they may shoot an Instagram pic or send a text. And, they are not likely to have deep conversations with us parents either but are very likely to shoot us texts that give us a good idea of what’s on their mind. From there, if we’re lucky, we can grab a few minutes of unplugged time and have a bit of a chat.

So, Valentine’s Day, like much of everything else in life, most definitely has a plugged in, digital aspect to it in 2013. We have candy that eggs us on to profess our deepest emotions online, and the bulk of greeting cards have gone digital and, if you can even send electronic gift cards, if you want to complete the digital holiday package.

What hasn’t changed in 2013 is the relationship aspect of the holiday – the need to connect.  Its a great excuse to remind our kids that its important to tell the people in their life that are important to them, even if just once in a while, that they do care about them. Not everyone is great at this so holidays can be great ways to safely allow people to come out of their shells and say things that are otherwise not so easy to say.

If you can get people in your family to open up with each other, the benefits are enormous for everyone involved. I’m not sure how it started in our family but over the last few years we’ve all become incredibly comfortable saying “I love you” with each other – in just about any setting. Not a day goes by without everyone day that important 3 word phrase to everyone in the home at some point each day. We’ve all been known to just show up with surprises for each other, too – flowers, cups of coffee, tea, hot chocolate. Its been cool to see our teens now do these things with other relationships in their lives outside of the family.

So, this year, find some time to celebrate all the relationships in your home. Do something special as adults but also do something with the entire family. For the family celebration, it doesn’t have to be anything fancy – the point is to be together. You can create something in the kitchen or play a game together or have movie night. For gifts, consider making them for each other or having the kids do chores at home to earn a few bucks so they feel as if they have earned the money to purchase the gifts themselves but keep them simple. We want to emphasize the thought, not the gift.

In addition to the logistics of the holiday, there’s a lot you can add throughout the year that teaches kids to be loving and thoughtful people. Here’s a list put together by the American Academy of Pediatrics that has been around for a few years now that really hits the nail on the head with ways to accomplish this:

  1. Use plenty of positive words with your child. Try to avoid using sarcasm. Children often don’t understand it, and if they do, it creates a negative interaction.
  2. Respond promptly and lovingly to your child’s physical and emotional needs and banish put-downs from your parenting vocabulary. Be available to listen to your child when he/she want to talk with you even if it’s an inconvenient time.
  3. Make an extra effort to set a good example at home and in public. Use words like “I’m sorry,” “please,” and “thank you.”
  4. When your child is angry, argumentative or in a bad mood, give him a hug, cuddle, pat, secret sign or other gesture of affection he favors and then talk with him about it when he’s feeling better.
  5. Use non-violent forms of discipline. Parents should institute both rewards and restrictions many years before adolescence to help prevent trouble during the teenage years. Allowing children of any age to constantly break important rules without being disciplined only encourages more rule violations.
  6. Make plans to spend time alone with your young child or teen doing something she enjoys. Send a Valentine’s Day card to your older child or teen. Make Valentine’s Day cards together with your preschool or younger school age child.
  7. Mark family game nights on your calendar so the entire family can be together. Put a different family member’s name under each date, and have that person choose which game will be played that evening.
  8. Owning a pet can make children, especially those with chronic illnesses and disabilities, feel better by stimulating physical activity, enhancing their overall attitude, and offering constant companionship.
  9. One of the best ways to familiarize your child with good food choices is to encourage him to cook with you. Let him get involved in the entire process, from planning the menus to shopping for ingredients to the actual food preparation and its serving. It is wonderful when families eat together as much as possible. Good food, good conversations.
  10. As your child grows up, she’ll spend most of her time developing and refining a variety of skills and abilities in all areas of her life. You should help her as much as possible by encouraging her and providing the equipment and instruction she needs. Start reading to your child beginning at six months. Avoid TV in the first two years, monitor and watch TV with your older children and use TV time as conversation time with your children. Limit computer and video games.
  11. Your child’s health depends significantly on the care and guidance you offer during his early years. By taking your child to the doctor regularly for preventive health care visits, keeping him safe from accidents, providing a nutritious diet, and encouraging exercise throughout childhood, you help protect and strengthen his body.
  12. Help your child foster positive relationships with friends, siblings and members of the community.
  13. One of your most important gifts as a parent is to help your child develop self-esteem. Your child needs your steady support and encouragement to discover his strengths. He needs you to believe in him as he learns to believe in himself. Loving him, spending time with him, listening to him and praising his accomplishments are all part of this process.
  14. Don’t forget to say, “I love you” to children of all ages!

Happy Valentine’s Day to you and everyone in your life important to you!

(original post 2008; updated 2013)

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