February 12, 2017

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.

Teens Weigh In On Valentine’s Day

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:

  • 22% said Valentine’s was “overrated” and 24% said it was “irrelevant”
  • 53% were not planning to send any Valentine’s gifts
  • 64% thought it was “somewhat important” to acknowledge Valentine’s on social media BUT
  • 65% of those also felt that seeing social media posts made them feel jealous or stressed out

Parenting Fears: Teens and Dating

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.

February is Dating Violence Awareness Month

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.

Love Your Teen on Valentine’s Day

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.

Ideas for Valentine’s Day for your Teens

  • Candy, duh!
  • A hand written card with a note about how special they are to you
  • A framed picture of you together
  • A fun activity that you can do together (movie, mini-golf, bowling, craft)
  • Cook their favorite meal
  • Decorate cookies
  • HUG THEM!!
  • Tell them you love them and give them a specific quality that you appreciate most.

Final Thoughts

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.




About the Author

Jen Taylor, LCSW-C, RPT-S is an EMDR Approved Consultant and Certified Journal to the Self Instructor.  She is a therapist specializing in complex trauma, an international play therapy teacher and a published writer of multiple play therapy chapters.  Jen is the creator of the original 2017 Play Therapy Summit and many other innovative programs for mental health professionals.  Jen uses writing therapy, play therapy and expressive arts for her clients and for other mental health professionals so they can lead more joyful and meaningful lives.  Jen encourages people to try new things and create daily habits that allow for incremental progress towards previously unimaginable results.   Jen is a travel enthusiast, an avid reader, and a girl who lifts weights and runs for fun.  

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