Valentine's Day means something different to everyone, but most would agree the holiday is traditionally devoted to the celebration of romantic love.
Still, with pink and red hearts and bright boxes of candy covering shops across the globe in preparation for the day, it's no surprise that children long to get in on the fun. But is Valentine's Day OK for kids to celebrate?
Is the holiday for heart-shaped candy and flowers adorable and harmless? Or, are some V-Day celebrations objectifying and inappropriate?
Christine Michel Carter, a single mom and author from Baltimore, Md., says rather than focus on romantic love, she sees Valentine's Day as an opportunity to teach her kids about love and respect, as well as to debunk gender roles.
"I believe it's important to teach my children how to treat someone they care about," Michel Carter shares, "and not just from a romantic perspective."
To do this, Michel Carter developed her own version of the holiday to celebrate with her kids: "palentine's day." On "palentine's day," Michel Carter treats her kids to a meal at a high-end restaurant, something she describes as a fun way to teach them about manners and behavior in upscale locations. She also emphasizes to her kids that these experiences are not limited just to romantic partners of the opposite sex.
"I wanted to debunk gender roles and show my children a woman can pay for a fancy meal," she says. "This was especially important to me as the mother of a straight son and non-binary pansexual tween girl."
Pareen Sehat, a clinical counselor at Well Beings Counselling in Vancouver, Canada, says with a bit of planning, Valentine's Day can be a sweet celebration appropriate for all ages.
"It's a day that should be celebrated regardless of whether the individuals are seniors or teenagers," Sehat tells Yahoo Life. "The holiday is perfectly OK as it's a celebration of love. Valentine's Day is an all-inclusive day that doesn't differentiate between the gender of partners."
Abby Anoff lives in the United Kingdom and blogs about parenting at Kin Unplugged. Anoff says although her kids, a 3-year-old daughter and 6-month-old son, may still be young, she already has plans for how she hopes to share Valentine's Day with them as they grow.
"I'm perfectly happy for my [daughter] to celebrate [Valentine's Day] because at her age, I can control the narrative," says Anoff. "This year, I intend to teach her that Valentine's Day is about showing love to others the same way you would every other day, except that some people choose to exchange gifts on this day to signify that love."
Anoff says from an early age, she has shown her daughter and son that Valentine's Day represents all kinds of love. "It's important they know this showcase of love is not gender-based or romantic only," she explains.
But, while parents and experts agree that Valentine's Day can be harmless fun and even an opportunity to teach children something new, many are less-than-thrilled with the stereotypes and expectations that come with the day thanks to places like the kids' clothing section or candy aisle.
"I believe that stereotypes such as 'lady killer' and 'heart-breaker' add a negative connotation to the eventful day," says Sehat. "In a patriarchal society, these terms can damage the perspectives of individuals, as they feel that their ego is at stake every time a girl says, 'no.'"
Elizabeth Hicks, a mother of two and co-founder of the website Parenting Nerd, says while she supports children celebrating the holiday, she agrees it's time for some gender-specific stereotypes to come to an end. She's found that engaging in open, honest and age-appropriate conversations is a great way to dispel these negative tropes.
"Having any kind of conversation with your teenager is a challenge in itself, especially one revolving around love, sex and consent." says Hicks. "The best way to go about it is to be direct and use your own experiences in life to set an example."
Sehat concurs. "Every parent should have an age-appropriate conversation with their children about boundaries, consent and romantic love," she says.
While changing up the way Valentine's Day is celebrated in your home may seem like a great deal of preparation for one day, Hicks reminds parents that the day is a small holiday that brings attention to a larger picture: The romantic and platonic love Valentine's Day celebrates are an important part of our human experience and should be talked about with kids no matter which day of the year it is.
"Dating is a major aspect of our lives and everybody has to go through the experience once in their life," says Hicks. "Valentine's Day is a significant event that celebrates love and I believe everyone should be a part of it."
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