Being the lone female in my house, the fact Valentine’s Day comes and goes without much fanfare is a given. This date mattered much more to me in my younger days, but I have a house to run, articles to write and a life to live. This may not be the case for those of us living with teenagers.
My thirteen year old informed his younger brother at the dinner table as we discussed their rather uneventful Valentine’s Day, while it isn’t a big deal in grade school, it is a huge deal in middle school. He noted there were lots of boys walking around with giant teddy bears, couples kissing in the hallways and girls crying over being single. Other than the fact I feel completely unprepared for this next phase of his life, one thing stood out above the rest. It pained me to hear about how much crying and drama many of the girls were experiencing over this day. Maybe you can relate to this directly if you happened to have a distraught kid hurt over something that did or did not happen on Valentine’s Day. Or, at least you might remember some of the angst you may have felt during middle school on similar occasions.
If your child is extremely upset, there isn’t much that can be done other than allowing them their experience. Try your best to remain calm and offer compassion. As adults, we have perspective. We understand middle school is a blip on the radar. Our romantic entanglements, or in my case a glaring and obvious lack thereof, when we were twelve or thirteen do not have a long-term impact on who we end up as people. However, for a middle-schooler in the thick of the experience it seems much more dire. They haven’t had enough experience to know sometimes love will favor you, and sometimes it doesn’t. Be patient with them. Give them lots of hugs. Let them know you are available if they want to talk, but also respect their space if they ask for that, too.
When things are calmer and less emotional, try to engage your kids in conversations about some of the perspective I mentioned above. Besides celebrating romantic love, Valentine’s Day is an opportunity to recognize all the different ways loves shows up for each of us. It could be through friendship, a cherished pet, a sibling who always has your back and anyone else that shows kindness towards you. If we remind our kids that love is all around, then maybe it will take some pressure off of them.
In addition to remembering the variances of how love shows up, I like to talk to my boys about what their lives might look like in the future with or without a central, romantic relationship. My youngest is still not convinced he will ever have romantic feelings, so it is quite easy for us to imagine where he might end up. There’s a plan of maybe living with his brother as he pursues his professional sports’ career. With my older son, who understands he may want to have a serious relationship at some point, we talk about how that would be great if it happens, but he may be busy with his expanding sports’ journalism career. When we have these types of discussions, there’s no right or wrong, only possibilities. I’m trying to show them it isn’t always their relationships with others that will define their happiness, it is making the most of and appreciating the life they are given.
If we can show our kids life is full of wonderful choices and if romantic love happens to show up for them in the process, it will only add to an already incredible life.
Written by Diana DeVaul, MSW and Parent