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Coaching your adolescent through Valentine's Day

Jen Klein is a New England-based technical writer and mother of three. When she isn't asking her kids to stop bickering, "caramelizing" the dinner or actively ignoring the dust bunnies under the couch, she enjoys knitting, gardening, pho...

Crushes, first loves, broken hearts, oh my!

When the kids were little, Valentine’s Day was easy. There was a class party, Valentine for everyone in the class and sugar overload. Now that your child is reaching the teen years, Valentine’s Day can be a little more emotionally complex. First crushes, first relationships, first loves, first heartbreaks -- there’s a good chance you’re going to have to parent your adolescent child through one of these situations around Valentine’s Day at least once.

Tween

Think back to your own adolescent years. Everything -- everything! -- in your emerging romantic life was so…fraught! Full of drama and elation and difficulty and new feelings and unknown meaning and joy and hurt! High highs and low lows.

Little things felt like everything was perfect -- or the end of the world. Of course it wasn't perfect or the end of the world, but the point is it felt like it. And it may feel that way to your teen child now. As such, the expectation of Valentine's Day may feel daunting.

Crushes and early relationships

Young people need guidance about what is an appropriate expression of affection on Valentine's Day. Media builds up even this Hallmark holiday to near unachievable expectation. When all a teen sees is jewelry and extravagant chocolate -- and even lingerie -- there needs to be guidance from you about expectation of and from others.

Talk about the unrealistic expectations -- both of Valentine's giving and early relationships in general -- as a first step to (hopefully) easing your child's mind about both giving and receiving. You are essential in helping your child make decisions about what is an appropriate gift for a crush, a new relationship or even a first love. And hopefully this will open the door to a deeper conversation about healthy relationships and appropriate forms of expression overall.

The unattached

Your teen may find his or herself unattached at Valentine's Day -- and be completely bummed about it, self-conscious, or not quite sure what to feel. Your child may just not be ready for this part of life. Particularly if there has been significant pairing off in your child's social group, your child may feel left out.

You can help your child to identify others who are not paired off not only to prove that not "everyone" is paired off -- and not to subsequently pair off -- but to identify a group to socialize with on Valentine's Day in a platonic way. In this way you can help your child see that he or she is not left out, and fun is to be had on Valentine's Day even if there's no romantic relationship involved.

The brokenhearted

In the scenario many a mom dreads, there's a chance your child may have a broken heart on Valentine's Day. No mom wants to see her child hurt, and this kind of early heartache can be particularly wrenching.

It may be nearly impossible for you to ease your child's heartache. Remember that end of the world feeling? But you can be present and available and make sure your child is eating and participating in family life. You can make sure you and your home are refuge from that hurt with reassurance that you will always love them unconditionally. You can be available to talk -- or just listen. You may need to brainstorm ways to distract your child from the Valentine's brouhaha, or just ways to get through the day. But just plain being available for your heart-hurt child is critical.

With a little compassion and luck, you'll all make it through your teen's first Valentine's Day as a romantic being -- and in 20 years you can laugh together about the drama.

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