Celebrating Love with your Family, by Amber Bond
It’s obvious from the flood of emails in my inbox selling flowers, chocolates, and all things red that Valentine’s Day is coming. This holiday of candy, cards, and fancy dinners gets a bum rap as a made up holiday that is only about selling lovers things they don’t need. I believe we can harness this “Hallmark Holiday” into a positive event for families. Like a piece we shared with you last year on Powerful Play, this piece will differ from the others you’ve read, chiefly because, unlike my colleagues, I am not a trained or credentialed creative arts therapist. Instead, I write this as a parent, and as a therapist in training who will be receiving an MA in Clinical Mental Health Counseling in just a few months.
As we publish this piece, it’s the day before Valentine’s Day. If you have young children, you may have bought or made dozens of Valentines for your children’s classmates. They will likely have a classroom party with sweets, hearts, and perhaps even the dreaded glitter. If you have teens, they may be anxiously hoping to receive a secret valentine, or be swept off their feet by their significant others. Some of these hopes may be fulfilled, others may be dashed.
So what are we, as parents, to do about Valentine’s Day? Even if you don’t celebrate or recognize this holiday, I propose we can turn this day into an opportunity to celebrate family love. I don’t mean gifts. We just celebrated the gift-giving holidays in December. I mean recognizing this holiday through shared family activities and creative expression! Let’s make Valentine’s Day about love in all its forms. A quick internet search revealed dozens of ideas for families that involved crafting with hot glue, glitter and other things that busy families may not be able to take on. Here are some practical “no prep” ideas for you and your family this weekend:
1) Have a family date. Dress up a little, pick a restaurant you don’t go to every day or have your little ones pick out flowers to dress up the table at home. Teens can plan a dish to cook or make a centerpiece if you decide to stay home.
2) Write love notes. Have everyone write a note to each other listing at least one (three or more for older children) specific thing they love about their family members. Ideally these could be read aloud to or by the recipient.
3) If you have pre-writers, try having them tell each family member what they love about them. Giving compliments and honoring the special qualities of loved ones is great practice at any age.
4) Sing love songs. Grab your phone or computer and play DJ. Take turns singing to or with each other.
5) Make a family art project. If you have big paper, cover your table and use markers, crayons or whatever you have on hand to make a family piece. Alternatively, use regular printer paper and give each person a piece. Display them together in a family mosaic.
6) Tell stories. Either have one family member start and then pass it to another to continue, or take turns recounting favorite memories.
7) Check out your local park district for family activities. Here in Evanston, I found two that look fun. SplatterDance and Valentine’s Day Family Fun Fest.
Each of these ideas can be modified to suit the ages and abilities of your family members. The goal is to have fun, connect, and express some love for each other. If a family member doesn’t want to participate, don’t make them. Modeling is beneficial too! If they see you having fun, they might want to get in on it. Teens, in particular, may or may not want to do these. If not, give them a Valentine with a heartfelt note listing the things you love about them. While they may roll their eyes and think it’s corny, your children will read it and feel good, knowing how and why you love them.
And for those of you parents in a romantic relationship, either with your co-parent or someone else, do something special for or with them. I don’t mean a fairy-tale grand gesture. A simple expression of your feelings set a realistic bar for ourselves and our kids. Our children and teenagers learn about romantic love from us. What it means, how we treat those we love, and more. Your actions will give them a concept of how to love and be loved that will stick with them for the rest of their lives.
For readers without a significant other or kids to celebrate Valentine’s Day with, here are some ideas for you:
1) Celebrate Galentines Day by planning a celebration with your best girl-friends (some ideas here), or check out this Chicago event at Inkling.
2) Find a singles event where you can meet others who might be looking for love.
3) Or, if you’re anti-Valentine’s Day entirely, check out these Anti-Valentines events.