It's that time of year again! Valentine's Day is fast approaching and you've opened up your child's backpack to find the dreaded class list and directive to make sure everybody gets a card. If you're like many parents, you're groaning and wondering why your child has to give a Valentine's Day card to everyone. Here's the answer to that question and five more common questions about Valentine's Day at school.
Why does my child have to give a Valentine's Day card to everyone in the class?
It may seem as though it's going overboard to give cards to the entire class and your child may even complain about giving cards to kids he doesn't like, but the reasoning is simple enough. Giving cards to everyone is the best way to avoid hurt feelings. If your child expresses concern about giving cards to everyone, don't dismiss his concerns, but do make sure he understands that it's not negotiable. You can encourage him to write a special message on the cards to his best friends as a way to set those apart from the rest.
What if I can't afford to buy Valentine's cards?
Talk to your child's teacher, preferably before you mention it to your child. Most teachers will have a creative solution to this problem. In my years of teaching, I always had parents who sent in their children's leftover cards "just in case." Many teachers are bargain shoppers and pick up boxes of Valentine's Day cards on clearance every year to stow away for just such situations. Or your child's teacher may be able to send home the materials to create homemade cards. Another option is to print Valentine's Day cards from online resources.
Does my child have to address and sign all the cards himself?
This really depends on how old your child is and whether or not his fine motor skills are up to it. By the time children reach late elementary school (3rd, 4th and 5th grade), they should not only be able to address and sign Valentine's Day cards, but also keep track of the class list to make sure everybody has a card.
In kindergarten, your child may be able to sign his own name to the cards and trace over his classmate's names if you pencil them on first. First and second graders are most likely able to address and sign all the cards, but may need to do them in batches over the course of a few days.
Why doesn't my child's school allow Valentine's Day celebrations?
There's no one reason that schools don't allow Valentine's Day celebrations, but there are a few common themes, including the concern of the impact Valentine's parties and candy can have on children with food allergies. Other issues may be:
(1) Parties and cards exchanges can be disruptive to the learning process. It's very hard to get anything accomplished if students are anticipating a celebration or recovering from one.
(2) Not all students' religious beliefs include Valentine's Day and celebrating it in the classroom can be considered discriminatory.
(3) Valentine's Day is perfect fodder for bullying, clique behavior and hurt feelings, even if the "everyone gets a card" rule is enforced. Instead of providing the opportunity to send cards with nasty messages or to make fun of certain types of cards, some schools ask that Valentine's Day celebrations and exchanges take place off school grounds.
What should my child do for his teacher on Valentine's Day?
Take your cues from your child. Ask him: "What do you want to do for your teacher on Valentine's Day?" If all he wants to do is give her the same type of card he's giving all his classmates, that's fine. If he wants to do something more extensive, that's fine too. Teachers don't (or shouldn't) expect their students to give elaborate gifts. After all, Valentine's Day is traditionally more about love than appreciation!
What is a heart healthy Valentine's Day party and what kind of food do I send for it?
Since February is also American Heart Month, many classrooms are having healthier celebrations. Instead of cookies, cupcakes and punch, parents can send in more creative Valentine's Day treats.
Some of the more interesting ideas I've seen include: watermelon slices cut with heart-shaped cookie cutters; strawberries cut in half (they look like hearts); bagels with cream cheese mixed with a few drops of red food coloring; heart shaped mini-muffins and melon cut into the shape of flowers.