February 11, 2010

For Kids, Keep the Romance Out of Valentine's Day

We all remember exchanging cards with our classmates at school on Valentine's Day.  I grew up after the implementation of the "fairness rule:" if you give something to one, you must give it to all.  And I think it's a good rule.  It takes away the chance of one child being snubbed by the class; how many cards you got can't be made a popularity contest; and it helps teach children to be inclusive and sensitive to the feelings of others.  Plus, a big benefit to me, it takes some of the romance out of Valentine's Day.

The thing is, kids have the rest of their lives to be grown-ups, to deal with heartache, rejection, the ups and downs of dating and relationships.  They don't need to be doing it at age 5 or 10 as well!

Many parents either subconsciously or quite boldly encourage their young children to "date."  In elementary school, they think of it as innocent and cute; the pitfall is that many children carry an "I should be dating someone" mindset into junior high. And based on my personal observation of my peers in junior high, those who had boyfriends or girlfriends didn't do as well in school.  They also seemed to have a harder time finding themselves, which is quite a problem at a developmental stage where that is the main goal.

Young children will have crushes, claim they plan to get married or hold hands, and you don't need to do much about it; within a few years, they'll be saying that the other has cooties.  The idea is to gently discourage (or at least not encourage) "dating" until the child is at an appropriate age to take it more seriously and emotionally cope with the pitfalls.

Remember that boys and girls can be friends with each other without the kids, or adults, labeling it as "dating."  So this year, encourage your kids to focus on their friends at Valentine's Day.  Leave that icky, mushy stuff to Mom and Dad.

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