Share the Love: Tips for inclusion on Valentine’s Day

Valentine girl readingValentine’s Day can be hard for kids who are not included in all of the festivities. Invariably, there will be children who don't receive cards, candy or greetings from peers. Some area schools are addressing the problem head-on and using the holiday as an opportunity to discuss friendship and kindness.

“Valentine’s Day can be tricky and kids can feel left out, even if it’s not intentional,” says Sarah Spaulding, school counselor at School of the Incarnation in Gambrills.

“At Incarnation, we discuss inclusion every day, and not just on Valentine’s Day, but the holiday can be a great reminder for parents to communicate with their kids on the topic,” Spaulding says.

Many schools, like School of the Incarnation, require students who exchange valentine cards to bring a card for each student — a practice that is becoming commonplace in most area schools.

“We do celebrate Valentine’s Day because it’s important for our students to be aware of their time and place and culture,” says Deborah Bricker, head of school at Chesapeake Montessori in Annapolis, which has an “all or none” policy for younger students exchanging valentine cards.

“In addition to class celebrations, we try to make the holiday an opportunity for thought — to teach kids that love is not a fluffy feeling around the heart and that love is when you want the best for someone.”

Dawn Sirinakis, director of advancement at St. John the Evangelist in Severna Park, agrees. “On Valentine’s Day, we promote how to be kind to one another and be good friends. We talk about what it means to love, and we do that not just on Valentine’s Day, but every day of the year,” she says.

Make this Valentine’s Day an opportunity to discuss inclusion, kindness and friendship with your child. Consider the following tips:

  • Encourage kids to think about love in terms of friendship and not just romance.Valentine girl boy
  • Use Valentine’s Day as an opportunity to discuss with your kids the meaning of love and why it should be celebrated.
  • Ask your school about policies regarding valentine distribution so every child can feel included.
  • Talk to older kids about Valentine’s Day emotions. “Middle-schoolers especially tend to be focused on themselves and just their close friends around them,” Spaulding says. “Talk to them about how a Valentine’s [Day] gesture could make others feel lonely or left out, even if they have the best intentions.”
  • Encourage your child to include everyone and to reach out to kids who may be left out.
  • Remind kids that there is no better time to make a new friend than today, but if they need an occasion, national Make a Friend Day is Feb. 11.
  • Start a campaign at your school for No One Eats Alone Day on Feb. 10. Last year schools in all 50 states participated. For more information visit nooneeatsalone.org.

By Katie Riley

Click here for a list of Valentine's activities for all ages.