Reducing your Teen’s Stress on Valentine’s Day
Valentine’s Day is this week, and believe it or not, with the holiday comes stress for your teen. Hyped as the most romantic day of the year, teens are susceptible to the ideas that our culture promotes. Teens love to be ‘in love’ and they also like to find out who sent what valentine to whom.
While it should be fun and cute, unfortunately, peer pressure and cattiness can turn this holiday into a popularity contest. Teens who are single feel especially unwanted on this day. Teens who are dating feel stressed about how to show their affection – with a card, a gift, a date, an activity? They have expectations for how their significant other will express their adoration, which can lead to heavy disappointment if they don’t come through. Even best girlfriends are unsure if they should give each other something on this day.
While these dilemmas may seem trivial to you, rest assured that these issues feel incredibly important to your teenager, so do not act indifferent or unconcerned. Peer relationships are vitally important to your teen’s overall sense of well-being, and your teen may need your help to develop their social skills, a critical skill they will need to successfully navigate adulthood. Here is some Valentine’s advice for parents:
For single teens…
Valentine’s Day only heightens the emphasis on love, couple, and romance, which can leave a single person feeling unloved. Don’t let your teen wallow in misery! Give them some ideas for how to refocus Valentine’s Day into a positive thing:
- Make Some Money. Valentine’s Day is the perfect opportunity to babysit! There are so many parents that want to go out to dinner that your teen could easily find someone who needs a babysitter.
- Cheer Up Others. Encourage your teen to share a little love with others who may be feeling sad on this day. Make and decorate Valentine’s Day cookies and bring them to widows in the area. Serve food to the homeless. Volunteer in some way to make the world a little bit better.
- Give Everyone Valentines. Valentine’s Day is not just about romance – it’s about showing love to the important people in your life. Suggest your teen give a Valentine to their siblings, grandparents or friends – or even a classmate who wouldn’t be likely to receive one. Everyone feels valued when they receive a card!
- Host a Single People Get Together. Your teen is not the only single one at school. Offer to host a get together for all of your teen’s single friends. Your teen could put together a movie night, a dance party, or a chocolate taste test to find the favorite brand and filling.
For dating teens…
In the Valentine’s hype, most teens will have forgotten that the purpose of the day is to celebrate the person who makes them feel special. Instead, your teen will most likely be running through these questions: What should I get them? What will they get me? Is this romantic enough? Do we have enough money to go somewhere fancy? If we don’t have enough money, what can we do for free? Remind your teen that the point of the day is to express love and appreciation for the other person, so a thoughtful effort goes a long way. Offer your teen these ideas:
- One way to have a stress free day is for your teen to talk to their significant other beforehand. If the couple can share ideas about what they may want to do or set a price limit on gifts, it can take the pressure off.
- There are lots of opportunities to make a gift, which is both inexpensive and heartfelt. Suggest your teen make their boyfriend/girlfriend a card, a mix of music on a CD or playlist, any baked goods, or a photo album.
- Some of the best ways to celebrate Valentine’s Day is to prepare a gift that is also an experience! For example, your teen could purchase concert, movie, or event tickets. Your teen could prepare a homemade, candlelit dinner to share at your home. Your teen could create a scavenger hunt that has small trinkets with thoughtful messages at each spot.
Of course, before you even get to Valentine’s Day, it’s important that you have already thought through the idea of your teen dating. Parents of a teen who wants to date, should consider these questions:
When should a teen date? Most experts suggest that teens wait until they are 16 years old before going on a one-on-one date. Many preteens express interest in dating, but at this age, it is best to allow your child to go out with a group of friends to public places.
Have you talked to your teen about dating? Dating helps young people learn to get along with others, communicate, negotiate, make decisions, and learn to be assertive. It’s an important part of growing up, and talking about it together will help your teen mature. Discussing your values about love, respect, and sex will help encourage your teen to look for dates with the same values and set them up for a positive experience.
Have you established dating rules? Before a teen goes on their first date, parents should establish limits and expectations. Examples are:
- Your teen should introduce their date to you before they go out alone together.
- Set an age limit, such as you are not allowed to date anyone ___ years older or anyone ___ years younger than your son/daughter.
- Be clear what time curfew is.
- Require your teen to inform you of where they are going to be and with whom for the entire time they are gone.
- Set clear expectations that you require your teen to ensure their date is respectful to your son/daughter and your family.
- Remind your teen that their responsibilities come first. They must keep up with _________ (e.g. homework/grades, chores, sports, etc.) or possibly lose their dating privileges.
- When your teen’s date visits them at our house, your teen should keep all doors open and expect that you may check on them.
Establishing the rules prior to the date will significantly reduce the chance of conflict with your teen later.
Make sure that you keep the doors to communication open during this new change. You will need to respect their privacy – you don’t need to know every detail of their date – but they may want or need to share some information. Stay involved and attentive to what is going on. By setting rules with your teen about dating, you will help your child learn to make good choices and to build healthy relationships.