Valentine’s Day between couples is something that I have never really celebrated. I always thought it was silly. And, Valentine’s Day was my Mom’s birthday and so I never really considered it anything but that.
(Happy Birthday, Mom!)
But, when I had children, I felt obligated to make sure that they had what they needed for school celebrations and found that I actually enjoyed another opportunity to tell my kids how much I love them. But they are little (right now), so it is fun and silliness. When they are teenagers, they might be more focused on their own “relationships.”
Luckily, most of my teenage clients seem as unenthusiastic about Valentine’s Day as I do.
In 2015, TIME magazine issued a report that said teens hate Valentine’s Day more than you probably expect. Some of their findings from the 21,000 (mostly all girl) respondents were:
Despite the apparent lack of enthusiasm for Valentine’s Day, many of my teenage clients have boyfriends or girlfriends and feel the pressure of giving or receiving something at school. It’s that public display of affection that has the most impact for teens. That is the reason that the social media posts stress them out. Even if I don’t CARE about Valentine’s Day, there is a tiny part of me that is activated (read…jealous) when I see that someone else has received a silly teddy bear or some pretty flowers. I didn’t want the gift, but…
That’s where the stress comes in. The negative thoughts about how much another person really loves me. The doubts about my own worth. The guilt that I should have done something more to show my own appreciation. The negative self talk may be different for each teen, but that is the impact of social media. I LIKE seeing your posts about your celebrations and gifts AND at the same time, I can feel like I am missing out in some way.
Which leads to my fear that some teens are involved in unhealthy relationships. Some of them may even appear okay on the surface, but have an element of control or coercion that is not always apparent to those on the outside. And so, February is a good time to talk to your teens about dating violence.
Use Valentine’s Day as a conversation starter about healthy relationships and good boundaries while dating. If you are a parent that was involved in an unhealthy relationship (with the child’s other parent or someone else), use this as an opportunity to talk about what you have learned.
Not sure what to say…
Here is a great resource www.loveisrespect.org and a quote from their website,
Remember, love has many definitions, but abuse isn’t one of them. If you or someone you know has a question about a relationship, healthy or unhealthy, visit loveisrespect.org or text “loveis” to 22522.”
You have a responsibility to talk to your teen about dating violence. Many teens have a twisted sense of romance based on dumb movies or lack of good role models in their lives. If you are in an abusive relationship, get help for yourself!
Get knowledgable about warning signs for dating violence including attempts to isolate your teen from their other friends, negative comments about their dress, behavior, weight, or choices, or excessive jealousy. For an extensive list of warning signs, go here.
Now that we have covered my lack of appreciate for Valentine’s Day as a wife and my professional obligation to ensure that your child is safe from abuse, let’s talk about your love for your teen.
There are never enough opportunities to reinforce your love for your child. Having a day prescribed for that doesn’t seem so ridiculous. Sadly, a lot of my teenager clients think that their parents do not love them at all. And on a few occasions in my career, I have met a few parents that I questioned as well.
So, don’t be that parent with a teen that doubts how much they are loved.
More importantly, do it even if they say they don’t’ care. Do it even if they roll their eyes and act annoyed. And even if they disrespectfully say, “ew, Mom”, do it anyway. It might not be cool for them to say they want it, but trust me….they do.
Jennifer Taylor, LCSW, RPT is an experienced child and family therapist and public speaker who specializes in trauma, ADHD, and conduct problems. Discover more about her diverse clinical background and family. Reach out to Jennifer with questions or comments by emailing at firstname.lastname@example.org
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