Love is a big topic of conversation around Valentine’s Day, and the meaning of crushes and dating and romance are topics that parents should discuss with their kids at age-appropriate levels, says a Purdue University child development expert.
There will be awkward moments in kids’ explorations of love, Judith Myers-Walls, professor emeritus of child development, says in a press release. “It can't be avoided. There will be some false starts, sudden endings, misunderstandings and real growth. We cannot control these things, as it is something they need to experience on their own. But we can be sounding boards, providers of suggestions and feedback, partners in celebration, and shoulders to cry on when necessary.”
She has this to say about talking to your kids this month:
For young children, emphasize the idea of loving humankind. “Parents and teachers can encourage these children to show love and kindness to all of the children in the class and to everyone they meet.”
Elementary children may focus more on girlfriend and boyfriend relationships. Valentine’s card decisions are taken seriously and can be connected to strong feelings. “They are very easily embarrassed about those feelings, though, so parents and other adults should be respectful and not tease about those issues.”
Adolescents are emotionally intense, and Valentine's Day can magnify those feelings. “It could be helpful to remind them that this is just one day, and a relationship is made up of mostly ordinary days.”