Valentine’s Day is losing its appeal among teens, according to a social survey recently released in TIME Magazine. The hyper commercialization of romance at an age where “true love” can seem fickle and elusive to many, has turned many young people off to traditional celebrations of the love holiday. Respondents rated Valentine’s Day as “overrated,” ” irrelevant” and even “painful” for those whose reality does not match up to the ideals of silver screen romance. Fortunately for parents of such disillusioned teens, the holiday can be an opportunity to teach teenagers that there is more to love than romance by building family bonds and serving up a dose of love to the less fortunate through community service.
Teens are not alone in their distaste for the traditional heavy-handed emphasis on commercially driven fantasies of idyllic romance and lavish couples’ only celebrations, according to the Christian Science Monitor’s Tess Danielson. She points out that the 21st century Valentine’s Day is shifting its emphasis to be more inclusive and focus on more than just romance. The appeal of materialism in the form of chocolates, flowers and extravagant candlelit dinners at pricey restaurants serving up gourmet fare amid a setting of romantic music and tuxedoed wait staff is losing ground to simple homemade expressions of love for friends and family that come from the heart rather than the pocketbook.
Influence Central, the organization that conducted the survey found that most respondents viewed Valentine’s Day as a day to spend with friends and family, especially their children, rather than limiting their love expectations to the efforts of a romantic love interest, revealed the company’s CEO Stacy DeBroff. Dinners at home and gifts for the children are among the more appealing holiday plans as people turn their celebrations to a broader emphasis on appreciating all the important relationships in their lives, rather than zeroing in only on a significant other, which may not be a reality for many, whether teens or adults.
This shifting view of the holiday offers parents of teens an opportunity to broaden their children’s expectations of what a celebration of love can look like, beyond the attentions of a love interest. What most teens are really looking for anyway is emotional connections, evidence that someone really cares about them as they navigate the stormy seas of the adolescent identity crisis. So friends and family can help fill that basic human need to feel valued and appreciated by taking time out to spend quality time together doing thoughtful things for each other, having fun and simply enjoying one another’s company for Valentine’s Day.
Parents usually know what activities are most important to their teens so they can choose one and make an outing of it for Valentine’s Day just to make a connection and build a relationship of trust between parent and child. Parents can leave “love notes” in secret places for teens to find telling them what they love about them, building up and encouraging them. Chocolates and movie nights can also be an easy way to appeal to a teen’s heart. Most importantly, whether they admit it or not, teens need to hear they are loved so parents should not be afraid to wrap their kids in a bear hug, look them in the eye and say, “I love you and I believe in you.”
Being alone or at least feeling alone while believing everyone else is out in couples’ nirvana can make a family’s best efforts to cheer up a single teen fall flat. However, chances are many of their friends are in the same boat so parents can dismantle the “everyone has someone but me” myth by including their teens’ friends in the Valentine’s Day celebrations. Invite friends to a movie night, bowling, ice cream, a concert, anywhere they can hang out together, live it up a little and relieve the pressure of loneliness that comes from staying home nursing inaccurate fantasies of the idyllic romances they suppose everyone else is having. Visiting friends or finding ways to alleviate the loneliness of others such as shut-ins, the elderly or sick has the extraordinary effect of almost miraculously making a person forget his or her own loneliness in the fulfillment of serving others. With a little effort, friends and family can turn their teens’ Valentine’s Day experience from a losing battle with solitude and heartache to an appealing opportunity to receive the love they so crave in broadly inclusive ways that affirm the treasured relationships they do have rather than pining after the one that has yet to become a reality.
By Tamara Christine
Image courtesy of Carol Van Hook – Flickr License