By Diana Simeon
As adults, we know that Valentine’s Day isn’t important (and even then, we can still feel irked when someone we love forgets). But for some middle schoolers, it can be a real heart breaker.
Gone are the days of elementary school, when teachers required students to bring in cards or goodies for everyone. By middle school, Valentine’s Day can be a stark reminder of an adolescent’s social status. For adolescents who struggle socially, that can mean watching peers get cards, candy and even flowers (at school and on social media) while he or she may get nothing at all.
So, how to talk to an adolescent who may come home feeling left out and unpopular today?
“Have empathy for their sadness,” says Dr. Deborah Gilboa, a family physician and author of How to Get the Behavior You Want Without Being the Parent You Hate. Try something like: “‘I see that you are feeling left out and disappointed and I am sad that you are going through that.'”
Brushing your adolescent’s feelings aside isn’t helpful (“It’s such a silly holiday!”), but neither is trying to fix those feelings (“I’ll be your Valentine!”). And adding fuel to the fire by getting indignant on your adolescent’s behalf doesn’t help either (“I’m calling the school!”), says Gilboa.
“Don’t ramp it up to a higher level than your child does. That makes it harder for them,” she adds.
“This is not the worst disappointment our kids will face. If they see you are sympathetic and that they can come to you and you don’t make it worst or try to fix it, then they’ll be more willing to come back to you with other problems,” says Gilboa. “The best thing they will learn is that they can experience something like this and survive it.”
Diana Simeon is managing editor of Your Teen.