When we think of celebrating Valentine's Day we might first think of a romantic day in which we proclaim love to a significant other. If you've got kiddos in your life you might think of miniature cards (hey, I've got some in the shop
!) and sweet treats for classmates. But there is a whole collection of other people who each have a significant impact on your child's life.
Sit down with your kids and use this list as a starting point to decide who else you might appreciate come Valentine's Day. Encourage your child to draw a picture, create some art, or -- if they are old enough -- write a few sentences of gratitude themselves.
And please please don't get all perfectionist about it and feel obligated to check off all 14 boxes (recovering perfectionist here). Instead, have a pleasant chat with your child learn who matters the most to them right now. Choose those few to recognize.
14 people in your child's life who deserve some love:
In the United States this is a profession that is underpaid and underappreciated. Being married to an educator, I can tell you that it is a heck of a lot of work. I can also promise you that a heartfelt thank you note from either a student or a parent is more meaningful than you might think. And please don't limit your love to current teachers. Even taking a moment to fondly remember teachers from the past is worth the effort.
School support staff
There is a long list of people beyond teachers who contribute to the atmosphere at your child's school: paraprofessionals, recess teachers, lunchroom staff, the custodian, secretaries/office staff, the principal. Sit down with your student and ask them who else is a part of their school life. Recently at a school function I was chatting with a woman who worked in the cafeteria. Not only did she know who my kids were but tears came to her eyes when she remembered a thank you note my daughter had written to her earlier that year. She said "It's things like that that keep you going."
Bus drivers (school or public)
Who are the people you meet on your way to the places you go every day? Are there people who notice your child and engage them in conversation? Or maybe you've started the conversations and relationship and want to continue building the relationship. A valentine might do that.
These adults love your children and meet their needs when you can't. Show appreciation for the ones who deal with diapers, snotty noses, and even snotty attitudes. They show grace and dole out hugs and snacks. They matter a whole lot.
Sunday school teachers and youth group leaders
These volunteers are a part of your church family and they give their time to prepare lessons for and pray for your kiddos. How can you not appreciate the ones who know your child by name and welcome them week after week?
Coaches and extracurricular leaders
The right adult in charge of a sports team or a piano lesson can make all the difference in your child gaining valuable life skills like teamwork and perseverance. Recognize the ones who are getting it right.
Pediatricians, doctors, nurses
Friends, I must confess that I have a favorite nurse. She is the speediest woman I have seen with a vaccine and she's gotten the job done even when a certain child resists mightily. My heart if bursting with love and respect for her. She certainly deserves a valentine as do any other medical professionals who show love to kiddos.
Dentists and orthodontists
Opening your mouth wide for all kinds of uncomfortable experiences can be frightening for kids (and maybe us adults too!). If you are blessed to have professionals who are kind and patient and good with kids, acknowledge what that means to you.
Staff where your family volunteers
If you are lucky enough to find a ministry or non-profit where you can serve alongside your kids and they have patience for the inevitable silliness that happens, give those staff members a hug and a thank you note! I volunteer with my older kids and they aren't always the most focused little workers but I am grateful they have a place where they are welcomed and where they can make a difference in the world.
I am super fan of the library (and books and reading). I feel at home there and so do my kids. We are lucky enough to live just a short walk away from our neighborhood branch. Even luckier, the children's librarian there has been a very special part of my children's lives since they were babies. If your family has felt some love from a librarian then take a moment to return that love!
Do you have neighbors who regular offer a friendly wave? Or share their dog with your kids? Or maybe you know of a few who don't have grandkids nearby. Who around you could use some kid love?
Parents of friends
I want my house to be a place my children's friends and enjoy. So I try to be welcoming to them when they are over to play. But I also don't hesitate to do a little parenting if it is called for too -- my aim is to love those kids like they are my own. Where do your kids go play? Have they been welcomed into another family?
Do your kids have a special aunt, uncle, or grandparent? An older cousin who includes them? Or perhaps there are other adults in their life who play those roles. The love of other caring adults is a true gift.
Oooh, this might be the hardest one yet! How is it we seem to fall into the worst habits with the people we love the most? Helping your child to see her brothers and sisters with eyes of love and appreciation is a gift worth working towards.
PS If you want to pre-print some valentine cards with blank backs
try these 5x7 cards. Print them at your favorite photo place (see my list
here) and get writing!