I must confess to being a little unsettled by a trend which has appeared on my social media timelines over the last couple of years – Valentine’s gifts for children – even for kids of primary school age and younger.
Haven’t we just spent enough on them for Christmas? It’s not too clear whether the idea behind this is for parents to indulge their children with more presents or whether they are designed for children to give to the object of their affections in school, ballet, Tae-Kwon-do or the football pitch. Either way, it sounds like canny marketing to me.
How about ‘Valentine’s Day Activities’ for kids? A chocolate making workshop? Heart decoupage? Innocent crafting activity, or one filled with a particular resonance and implication?
And in the romance stakes, already competitive mums across the land are crossing their fingers that their offspring will come out of school clutching a sticky, chocolate smeared Valentine’s card or even a rose like a trophy.
This year, of course, it’s more likely to be an online card from Moonpig but the effect will be the same.
The point is, of course, is that it’s romantic brownie points for the mother, and probably not a little confusion for the child. A cynic may say that this is the true result of giving Valentine’s gifts for children.
Can anything be done to halt the ever-increasing commercialism of every single ‘celebration’ in the calendar, including saints’ days?
Probably not. But we don’t have to buy into it, particularly where our kids are concerned.
In the same way, we don’t need to encourage the ever-earlier sexualisation of our kids any more than their doubtless exposure to social media is already doing.
Lots of people don’t see the need for Valentine’s Day anyway. If you love someone, they sensibly argue, why not tell them you love them on a daily basis.
Love is not proved by a bouquet of roses and pink champagne. It’s those loving gestures which shore us up against the monotony – the headaches, the setbacks, the bills.
It’s the cup of tea in bed in the morning. The pick-up from the railway station in the rain. The comforting hug when things go wrong.
It’s the same for our kids. Why teach them to equate love with presents? Anybody can buy a basket with a teddy, a reading book and a lolly.
But how many parents will tuck the child up and read the book to them at night?
Why, oh why, encourage young kids to equate their desirability with their looks – particularly girls – when their self-esteem at this age is so fragile?
I won’t deny I enjoy a bunch of flowers but whilst I appreciate their beauty, I also understand what they may, or may not mean.
That’s a skill honed from years of romantic experiences – both good and bad.
And those are experiences our kids may not be ready for – for a long time to come.
Let’s not expose our kids to the pain of rejection and damage their developing self-esteem when they are one of the few not to receive anything.
Let’s celebrate their ‘achievements’ in the areas that matter – education, manners, being a nice person, a good person.
Everything else can wait – including Valentine’s gifts for children.
*Post updated for 2021