My Funny Valentine Problem: Should All Classmates Receive a Valentine?

by Samantha on February 6, 2012

Valentine’s Day is around the corner and at schools across the country, the excitement has set in. The thrill of giving and receiving Valentine’s cards to and from friends, teachers and perhaps that special someone is felt by students and teachers alike.

The Valentine’s Day ritual starts early as Preschool and Kindergarten kids receive class lists with names of all of the children in the hopes that everyone is included in the festivities.

Of course, when children are this small, it’s really important to teach them lessons about inclusion, feelings and “doing the right thing.” In other words, even if there are some potential Valentines who may be less-liked than others, they too should receive a card, in the spirit of the occasion…I guess.

Not to be a party pooper, but should we really be taking this tact? After all, we as parents do our best to prepare our children about life in the real world. This real world includes having to deal with people you don’t like and, when you’re an adult, you generally don’t pass along objects of endearment such as Valentines Day cards to those that are less-than-desirable from your point of view.

valentine's day card and girl
Image courtesy of www.momlogic.com

Now, I understand the rationale behind why the “class list” distribution is provided to young children’s parents before Valentines Day, and I do plan on giving out cards to each and every one of my twin boys’ classmates. That being said, one has to wonder about the precedent that this behavior is setting in light of the fact that the name of each and every one of a child’s classmates is not usually provided in the upper grades. In other words, are we putting blinders on and delaying the inevitable reality that at some point, older kids will have to realize that they may not be as well liked – and hence, less likely to receive Valentines cards – than others? Who determines at what age it is appropriate that some classmates will be shunned, while others bask in the glory of the numerous cards, gifts and candy that they have received?

I remember public school (in the later grades), Valentines Day and who got the most cards, and who received the least. It was a joyous day for some, a painful for others. The simple solution would be to make sure that everyone gets a Valentines Day card from everyone, wouldn’t it? Yet in the higher grades where the kids are more aware, it likely wouldn’t work as they are…well…more aware. The facade of etiquette and politeness would be quickly dashed as receiving a card or gift from one’s nemesis would hardly ring true. A heartfelt declaration of feelings that don’t exist would be called out in an instant, if not by the recipient themselves, then by their peers. You can’t pull the rug over the eyes of kids very easily these days.

For that reason, perhaps we as parents should collectively decide to lay it on the line earlier than later in our children’s lives. Maybe it’s not too early to teach our children that yes, it is very kind and polite to try to be inclusive at the risk of hurting each other’s feelings but not at any cost. If the bully who’s been making your life miserable is without a Valentines Day card on February 14th, hey – that’s okay. Similarly, your child may be in the position of being the one who is not on the receiving end of a Valentine for one reason or another. If this is the case, the dearth of red and pink offerings may be a starting point for a discussion on why such items were not forthcoming. Sometimes the most memorable and valuable lessons are, sadly, the ones that are also the most difficult.

What do you think? Should your child give Valentines Day cards to all of their classmates? If so, what grade should this end, if at all?

VIDEO – My Funny Valentine – Chet Baker
 
 
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{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Erin February 6, 2012 at 5:40 am

I think that the Valentine process in school is a great lesson on acceptance, and it's definitely most appropriate to give Valentines to all classmates than to only select ones. Also, I don't think the answer to a problem like bullying can be reduced to a solution as bandaid-like as denying them a Valentine's day card. They don't have to sign it "love"; it's really a token of celebration at that age. It's a declaration of "Let's get this party started!" and have cupcakes and not do schoolwork for the rest of the day, right?

A sidenote from the MOM POV. My twins are in separate classes, 25 kids per class, but they're in switch classes, which means they have two teachers, one for language arts and social studies, and one for math and science, with my daughter having the M&S as her homeroom, and my son having the SS&LA as his. They were told (5th grade) that they could either bring for their homeroom class, or for both, their decision. Ummm, Guess which I'm doing? LOL. 100 valentines?! Oh, I don't think so. ;)

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ElectraDaddy February 6, 2012 at 8:48 am

My twins just turned 5 and are in their last year of preschool. The preschool requires that you bring a card for all students in the class. I'm fine with that and think it's a good policy through about 5th grade. Beyond that, students understand the concept of Valentine's Day and don't expect to get one from someone they don't really know or get along with.

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Sacha Chua February 7, 2012 at 12:57 am

Goodness, that's a lot of cards, a lot of paper, and a lot of forgettable sentiments. J- is in grade 8 and will probably bring a batch of cookies to school in lieu of chocolates or cards. I think her classmates will do just fine.

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Samantha February 7, 2012 at 4:16 am

Thanks for your comment, Erin. I agree that putting an end to bullying cannot be reduced to a band-aid solution such as a Valentines Day card. My point really was that the act of giving – or not – to a classmate that has been less-than-stellar in their treatment of another might give pause for the student on the non-receiving end to think about why they were left off the list. It may or may not work, but I think it's worth a shot. After all, giving cards to all really does dilute the message, especially once the kids are more aware of the subtleties of relationships. They're likely well aware who they get along with, or don't so giving a card to one whom you have never spoken to, or had little dealings with seems disingenuous at best, I think.

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Samantha February 7, 2012 at 4:21 am

Yea, I was thinking that in the higher grades, it seems silly to provide them with a list when we all know that the kids are well aware of who they are friends with and who they aren't. Younger grades – yes, I do agree with the policy that makes all kids feel inclusion, but my post is really about opening up the discussion about whether it's important to continue this policy past the very early grades, and if so, why. On a related note, it's a good opportunity for parents and kids to sit down with each other and talk about the "state of the union," if you will, e.g. how things are going at school, who the child's friends are, who they aren't friends with and why. A lot can be uncovered at this time if we all take the opportunity.
Thanks for commenting!

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Samantha February 7, 2012 at 4:22 am

So true! Giving cards to each and every child certainly isn't a "green" thing to do, now is it? Cookies or other baked goods sound like a great idea and very eco-friendly as well. Thanks for your comment :)

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Ellen February 14, 2012 at 1:29 pm

I love the idea of baked goods rather than cards! If you are giving cards, I think encouraging kids to give one each to the whole class is a good idea…but at some point we need to leave the decision up to them.

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Samantha February 15, 2012 at 4:49 pm

Definitely – I like the idea of baked goods as well and agree that at a certain point, the kids will have to make the decisions about who they're going to give Valentines cards to. The question becomes "when?" Thanks for commenting!

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Kate February 12, 2013 at 1:11 pm

There are sooo many lessons in life that will teach kids they aren’t liked by everyone, why start it so young w/Valentina’s cards? And trust me, in the 5th grade I knew who liked me & who didn’t. It was a hard year, 6th was even worse. Valentina’s Day cards weren’t going to make or break me. I think giving the entire class cards is acceptable through elementary school.
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Samantha February 12, 2013 at 4:48 pm

You’re right, Kate. It’s a hard lesson for a small child to feel that they’re one of the few kids that were left out of the fun and games for Valentines Day. Why not just give them a card and make them feel special? Would it be that hard for the parent/child to do so? While the kids are little, it’s probably a good idea to provide all of the children in the class with a card; as the kids get older, well – you know that they’ll make up their own minds about it.

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Sam February 13, 2014 at 7:20 pm

I’m torn on this topic. I don’t think any young kids should feel excluded, but if my 3.5 year old son was able to write the Valentine card for some of his classmates would read “please stop hitting my friends”. So the pre-printed sentiment would essentially be an empty lie and perhaps a tacit acceptance of their behaviour. So now I’ll just have to explain etiquette and being the bigger person to him I suppose.

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Samantha February 14, 2014 at 3:23 am

I know – it’s difficult to have to give Valentines to those who we know don’t really “get” or deserve the sentiment so it definitely is about teaching our kids to be the bigger person. We’re teaching them to be kind, not to leave others out, to provide a gesture that will make someone happy. Hopefully those kids who are not the kindest will pick up on the sentiments and one day change their behaviours. One can hope, right?

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