My tween surprised me a few nights ago when she dug through her bookshelf to find Somebody Loves You, Mr. Hatch, a picture book by Eileen Spinelli intended for kids age 4-7 that is set around St. Valentine's Day. My tween proceeded to read it to me at bedtime. That was a special treat: I love reading with my tween, seeing the book was like a visit from an old friend, and it reminded me of the importance of telling others that you love them.
Somebody Loves You, Mr. Hatch illustrates that Valentine's Day can be an important holiday even if you are not involved romantically, and the importance of sharing your feelings with people who are special to you. There are several ways to communicate parental love to your kid on Valentine's Day.
You don't have to reinvent the wheel, and these suggestions are based on the fact that older kids often respond best to the simplest efforts rather than those you slave over for days. Chances are you think your kid is incredible, and I'm sure he/she really is, so tell them specifically why you think that.
- If Valentines isn't your tween's thing, acknowledge that in a short, unadorned letter. Tell them you know that Valentine's Day grosses them out, and you know they don't like saying "I love you," but let them know that you wanted to tell them anyway. Leave it at that. Or just go with "This will self destruct."
- Text your tween. If your kid have a phone, why not use it to express your warm, fuzzy sentiments?
- Stick notes in unexpected places, but respect your tween's privacy. Depending on your tween, he/she may have moved past the stage of notes in the lunch box. You can go that route, but remember that the middle school lunchroom is already a bit of a social mine field and try not to embarrass him/her. Keep it small. A better option may be a post-it left on the bathroom mirror or on a dinner plate. Consider one in the sock drawer (NOT the underwear drawer. For the love of God, do not communicate via the underwear drawer!) or the top of the laundry hamper (if you dare) or on the tube of toothpaste (bonus: good way to make sure they're brushing).
- Fix their favorite dinner. Or make dinner a combo of each family member's favorites. The way to a tween's heart can be through his/her stomach.
- Cover the bedroom door with paper hearts, each of which states a lovable quality of the recipient. I'm hoping that listing specifics, like the fact that I love her kindness towards others or her dedication to the Battle of the Books team, will reinforce those positives.
- Make your tween a play list of relatively current pop songs that have a positive message about their awesomeness. Here are a few for tween girls:
- "Just the Way You Are" by Bruno Mars
- "Firework" by Katy Perry
- "What Makes You Beautiful" by One Direction
- "Who Says" by Selena Gomez
- "Perfect" by Pink (make sure to get the clean version)
- Email them the YouTube video of one of those songs or one of your favorites that you think they may appreciate (the links in the song titles above take you to the YouTube video).
- Hot chocolate date. I know that things are busy, but grabbing a hot chocolate or coffee (and probably the Valentine-themed cookie) with your child and just sitting and chatting with them for a while speaks volumes. Unfortunately, kids typically don't say, "Thanks for taking time out of your busy day, I appreciate your undivided attention and all you do for me."
Don't expect much back from your tween by an eye roll. Although they may act annoyed, hearing that they're loved can never be a bad thing for kids of any age. I can't see them sitting in a therapists office in 20 years complaining about the Valentine notes you left them. Well, maybe, but I don't think the therapist will find fault with that. (The many other mistakes I've made, however, are a different story.)
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