This Valentine’s Day create some traditions with your family that inspire love and connection. Although often considered a holiday focused on “courtly love,” Valentine’s Day gives us the opportunity to remember and share all our loved ones. After all, family and God are at the heart of any happy courtship.
Family togetherness on the holiday is a goal for many families, but what to do with your time together can be more of a challenge. Family traditions help promote a shared experience and build memories. Traditions can give kids a sense of belonging, which can also have a protective effect against commercialism and negative current culture norms. Yet, too many “things to do” every year will only result in an unpleasant pressured rush, not a relaxed, enjoyable holiday.
So, how do you achieve that balance of shared family experience without over burdening yourself or others with a “to do list” for the holidays?
Look for opportunities that fit naturally with your family. As homeschoolers we are uniquely positioned to take full advantage of Valentine’s Day. We already spend our time learning together and sharing experiences. For most of us, learning more about why Valentine’s Day is celebrated is a natural sequelae to our homeschool day. Placing an extra focus on giving and accepting love and kindness is an effort that benefits us all year-long.
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Learn About Valentine’s Day Celebrations
Culturally, Valentine’s Day has become commercialized with a sole focus on romantic love. This narrow view highlighting the importance of finding a significant other and having a perfect relationship can be disconcerting for many children (and parents). Having a more global view of the origin of Valentine’s Day and traditions anchored in family and Christ can be comforting as one moves through the formative years.
Origin of Valentine’s Day
While there is some debate as to the specifics of the origin of Valentine’s Day, there is believed to have been at least one Saint Valentine. “Saint Valentine,” by Robert Sabuda is a wonderful picture book that shares some of the commonly held beliefs about this man and his life. Another fabulous picture book is “The Story of Valentine’s Day,” by Clyde Robert Bulla. This book talks about the possible origination of Valentine’s Day as far back as the Roman holiday, Lupercalia and the later adoption of the holiday by the Christian church. This book also includes some simple crafts and a cookie recipe that are in keeping with long-held holiday tradition.
Although several countries celebrate Valentine’s Day on February 14th not all areas of the world celebrate in the same way. In Japan, women make chocolate for their male friends and sweethearts, but men return the chocolate with additional gifts a month later on “White Day.” In England, Jack Valentine brings small gifts and treats to children. Other countries celebrate their own version of “Valentine’s Day,” but celebrate on a different date or call the holiday by a different name. Researching a country of heritage or interest is an excellent way to expand our horizons on Valentine’s Day. You may even find some customs you wish to adopt as your own!
Have you taken the time to share your family’s love story? Tell your kids how you met your spouse or about the day of their birth. Taking time to share those memories gives your kids a history, a sense of belonging, and a chance to create their own stories.
Give Love and Kindness
On my wedding day, I received a book called “The Five Love Languages” by Gary Chapman. The author describes five different ways of expressing love including words of affirmation, quality time, receiving gifts, acts of service, and physical touch. Helping children recognize and respect these different avenues of demonstrating affection can empower them to truly give love to those most precious to them.
With a little forethought and intention, we can express love for our children using these love languages. Here are a few suggestions for how our family expresses the five love languages on Valentine’s Day.
Words of Affirmation
Say ‘Happy Valentine’s Day” and “I love you.” It doesn’t take long, but makes a big impact for kids and other family members who speak words of affirmation as their primary love language. If you want to take it a step further, here’s an easy project I did with the kids. I cut out small heart shapes on white card stock. I then wrote some of my favorite things about them on the heart in a white crayon. In order to discover what I had written they colored over the white crayon with a magic marker to make the words of affirmation appear.
Make it a point to spend some time together this Valentine’s Day. What does your family love to do together? Our family loves having a movie night and visiting the park. Reading aloud, cooking a meal together, or playing board games are other fabulous options.
Our children are still small, so we offer them a small amount of chocolate, an orange, an inexpensive toy, and their personal favorite, a helium balloon. Growing up I remember getting a card and candy from my parents. Of course, not all gifts have to be store made, homemade treats or candy are fantastic presents. Using special wrappings or including a surprise as part of a scavenger hunt all speak to children who feel most loved when given gifts.
Acts of Service
Our family routinely cooks a little something special for Valentine’s Day.
3 Ways to Make Breakfast a Little Special
- 1. Heart Shaped Egg in Toast
- Use a heart-shaped cookie cutter to create a heart shape in a piece of toast.
- Brown the toast and the heart cut out for one minute in a buttered pan.
- Flip both pieces of bread.
- Crack an egg into the heart-shaped hole in the bread and cook as desired.
- 2. Heart Shaped Pancakes
- Butter or oil a frying pan and the inside of a heart-shaped cookie cutter.
- Keep the heat on high approximately one minute and then reduce to medium heat.
- Ladle in the pancake batter and flip when bubbles appear.
- Remove the heart-shaped pancakes from the cookie cutter(s) and serve.
- 3. Heart Cinnamon Bread
- Roll a piece of aluminum foil into a snake-like shape and use it to form a heart.
- Place the heart shape on the bread and broil for a couple of minutes.
- Spread soft or melted butter on the toast and sprinkle on a cinnamon and sugar mixture.
Cooking not your thing? Consider covering your child’s chore load for the day or volunteering to work together to get them done before or after the holiday.
A simple hug is one of the best ways parents have of showing love and affection for our children. Fill Valentine’s Day with lots of hugs. My physical touch child is a sucker for foot massages especially when coupled with lotion or a calming lavender-scented essential oil. Think of activities you can do together that allow for physical touch, such as cuddling while reading a book, watching a movie, or bird watching by the window.
Provide children the tools to express these love languages to others. Simple steps by us as parents enable our kids to express love to others on Valentine’s Day and throughout the year.
- Lead by example.
- Encourage them when they try (that burnt piece of toast with a heart on it can be eaten).
- Show appreciation for what they do, do not point out what they don’t do
- Provide ideas and support for gifts or ideas the kids want to pursue when possible (materials for cards, ingredients for culinary endeavors).
Beyond the Nuclear Family
Love and kindness need not end with the nuclear family. From a Christian perspective we are all united and in need of love and kindness from one another. Showing compassion for a neighbor or person in need can be a great way to celebrate Valentine’s Day as a family. Sometimes a full day of volunteering at a soup kitchen or other charitable organization is within reason, but during other seasons of life our family’s tradition of showing compassion is as simple as making a little extra dinner to share with an elderly neighbor.
One of my favorite books to share with the kids at Valentine’s Day that embodies compassion is “Somebody Loves You, Mr. Hatch,” by Eileen Spinelli. In this wonderful story kids get a chance to see how big an impact knowing you are cared about can make for other people. It’s a quick and easy way to start a conversation about the importance of being nice and loving to others through acts of kindness.
Accept Love and Kindness
Accepting love and acts of kindness from others is more than just good manners. Feelings of worthiness can result in our kids when they feel as though they are deserving of the compliments and gifts offered to them. Empower your children in their future friendships and strengthen family bonds, by showing them how to demonstrate appreciation for another’s efforts. Taking time to be grateful for those who love you and show you kindness has also been shown to help with one’s own happiness.
Simple Ways to Help Kids Accept Love and Kindness
Let someone know you appreciate them
Make thank you cards or send thank you messages (yes, even via social media) to friends and family who have made an impact. You don’t have to limit yourselves to those who have recently given gifts. For example, we sent thank you notes to my Zumba instructor, the kid’s swimming teacher, and an aunt who sent goodies in the mail.
Create Gratitude Lists
Have your kids make a list of the top ten things and/or people they are grateful for this year. No, it doesn’t have to be limited to ten. For older kids see how long they can make the list. If you want to be more creative cut out hearts to display the things your family is most grateful for and display them in your home.
Spend a few extra minutes at prayer time to thank God for the special people in your life. Pray for those who love you and ask God to look after them and have them know they are loved in return. Consider adding in a prayer for the future spouses and family members of your children. Somewhere out there, another Momma is raising a special ”to be” member of your family and as we all know all Mamas can use a little help sometimes.
Valentine’s Day is a huge opportunity to connect and love our families. Regardless of whether you choose to do some of these activities, your own family favorites, or neither, remember that today and every day is a great time to hold your family close and to tell them how much you care. “I love you!” Is one of the greatest messages we can carry to our children.