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The Valentine's Day Loser

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Here's how to help your child cope with receiving fewer valentines than others.

Sad girl looking at valentine's card

Dr. Wendy Walsh: In elementary school, the ritual has evolved into a race by mothers to purchase enough valentines for the entire class and force a young hand to inscribe them all. I should tell you at this point that I have never done the above. If my kids want to give a card, they make one themselves. If not, then no biggie. The popular mass-distribution method is simply too much work for me -- and too much bowing to a Hallmark holiday that holds little meaning in my life. However, there are mothers who take this valentine business very seriously. And my children's homemade valentines are eclipsed by the cute professionally printed cards and goodie bags filled with chocolates and toys.

I am grateful to you moms who have your s--t together. But you should know that since my kids make their own, they usually lose steam by the tenth one -- and their not-so-close friends get the short end of the deal. So blame me if your kid is the one who receives not-so- many valentine cards.

Now, let me put on my Doctor of Psychology hat and give you a few pointers on how assuage the injuries my children may unknowingly inflict:

First, know that every emotional experience is a teaching opportunity and a gift. A childhood free from disappointments will leave our kids seriously lacking in coping skills. As with any feeling of sadness or loss, your first line of defense is empathy. Acknowledge and validate the sad feelings. Don't say, "Cheer up! It's only a stupid valentine card." Instead, you might try something like, "Wow. That's a hard feeling to have. Come snuggle with me, my little valentine, and let's talk about it." Then, while you attempt to just sit with your child and understand more about his or her feelings, resist the urge to fix this problem. This isn't the time for a mini-lecture on how to be a better friend or to suit up as protector-Mom and promise to annihilate the enemy kids.

This is a time to soothe, console and remind your child of how lovable he or she is. In my case, I might also use my cynical self to devalue the whole concept of Valentine's Day, but that's me and my bias. As I write this, I stopped to ask my 6-year-old what she would like me to do if she should get only a few valentine cards. In perfect childhood genius, she said, "If I get no valentines, then you need to get me a lot more playdates." Got it, kid. Whip up a social life, Mom.

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5 comments so far | Post a comment now
Anonymous February 14, 2011, 10:07 AM

LOL! Love it. This year I had 3 kids in the school system, and 60 handwritten valentines were just beyond us. Instead, we mass-produced crafts, printed labels for them and distributed them all. All of us worked together, and by the time it was done their friends had gifts they could keep and use and my kids didn’t feel like someone threw them under the bus.

zandhmom February 14, 2011, 10:19 AM

At my child school if you don’t give a valentine to all students in the class, you can’t give to any. I think that is the way to do it. No hurt feelings or no popular kid gets everything. I think it is wrong of you to let my children only give to some. You should teach them to be kind even to the kids they aren’t friends with. It’s a good morale to teach your children. If you and your kids aren’t up for all that work, then just skip it all together.

Leesa February 14, 2011, 11:56 AM

WOW! If we know that Valentines Day comes the same day every year then have your kids start in January and make a few each day. If you’re so bent on making the cards have a Valentine party for just those friends and hand them out there on your own time. For the class, just get yourself to the grocery store and buy a box.

Candace February 14, 2011, 3:02 PM

While I appreciate the advice for helping kids deal with disappointment, I don’t really appreciate the attitude of, “Oh, well, my kids ran out of steam, we’re only giving out ten Valentines” when it comes to elementary students.

If you bring something to class, you bring to share with the WHOLE class.

Yes, kids have a right to like who they like. And yes, they need to learn to deal with disappointment sooner or later.

But as parents and educators when we see kids being excluded in a group setting, we work to help children understand why it is important to be inclusive at school and other group settings.

If a group of children were playing and excluding another because he was a boy, or she was a girl, or “dressed funny”, or had a physical or other disability, would we just say, “Oh, the kid will just have to learn to cope”?

If homemade valentines for 20-30 kids is too much, buy a pack at the store, give those out at school, and mail the homemade ones to the close friends or have a private party for them.

Don’t like store-bought? Get cute pens or pencils. Want to customize? Have your child make one card and photocopy it.

Or just opt out of the classroom giving altogether and give the homemade ones out in private.

I want me kids to know that they don’t have to like everyone but they do have to be courteous and polite to all their classmates.

Anonymous February 16, 2011, 7:53 AM

Wow, all this nonsense just because a card company along with a few TV ads tell the world to do something on a certain day.

As for the kids, I’m all for them being included as much as possible, I am a teacher after all. However, as, yes, parents and educators, we have to allow children the freedom to make their own choices at times. What if a child makes a card for one or two friends who are close friends? School is their social space as well as their learning space, sometimes that’s the only opportunity they have in a day to share something that’s special. Should those two cards become thirty just because of the space the exchange happens in? How about sharing? We teach them to share, so should they share their expensive toys with every child they know, even the ones who think it’s fun to smash things with hammers? Of course not. Children need to be taught to be inclusive, but they also need to be listened to and they need to know that their opinions matter. Besides which, I hope you all wrote Valentine’s Day cards for EVERY man/woman you know instead of only the one you like and bought lunch for EVERYBODY in the office instead of just your friend. We have to be inclusive after all. Think about how mean it is to make all those people feel neglected and forgotten about. How dare you? Have your children taught you nothing?

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