When I was a kid, I’d race home every February 13 to sign what felt like countless little cards I’d hand to my BFFs (and my crushes, of course) the next day at school. But let’s face facts: It wasn’t the giving so much as the receiving that mattered. Reading the cards addressed to me and realizing who considered me special (and who didn’t!) filled, or crushed, my tender heart.
Now, as I help my kids with their cards, I think of ways to make Valentine’s Day pleasant for all involved. Here are some do’s and don’ts for that classic classroom ritual.
DO check the school’s parent handbook. Many schools have written policies specific to Valentine’s Day, especially in the lower grades. Typically, it’s a give-one-give-all rule to keep the big day from morphing into one big popularity contest.
DO let your child get creative. If he wants to make homemade cards, why support the greeting card industry instead? If the school allows dropping a candy heart inside each envelope, why not? Bottom line: If it comes from the heart and doesn’t break the bank, it’s probably a good idea.
DO get a head start. If card signing starts after supper the night before, you can bet your seven-year-old will moan that his wrist hurts as soon as he’s done autographing for his number one pals. So do yourself a favour and remember: That’s when you get nominated to spend the next hour carefully forging his name.
DON’T be short-sighted. In the higher grades, the give-all rule tends to expire and who gets cards is up to the kids. But even if your 12-year-old is clear about who’s her friend and who isn’t, ask her to consider the feelings of classmates who end up with no cards. If she doesn’t plan to share the love evenly, suggest she dole it out inconspicuously — by slipping cards into backpacks or trading after school.
DON’T go overboard. Valentine’s Day is not a birthday party where kids hit the jackpot with a loot bag full of junk. Over-giving can make other children feel that the simple paper hearts they made and signed are not up to snuff.
DON’T push the envelope. If your child is just not into hearts and lace, don’t insist that she sign 22 Barbie valentines to keep up with her peers. It’s true that she’ll end up on the receiving end, but you can use this as a chance to talk about what friendship means and why it’s valuable.