Get Psyched Friday Anxiety Around Valentines Day Celebrations at School
Friday, February 6, 2015
In her latest Get Psyched Friday post, psychologist Eleanor Mackey, PhD, offers tips for parents on how to help alleviate a child’s anxiety about their upcoming Valentine’s Day celebration at school.
Valentine’s Day is supposed to be a fun and festive holiday filled with giving and receiving gestures of appreciation and love. However, sometimes it has the opposite effect and makes us feel lonely or unappreciated. This is especially true for kids and teenagers who are particularly sensitive to what others think of them.
For children and teens, Valentine’s Day celebrations may be filled with dread, as they worry about not receiving positive feedback from friends or peers. Teenagers in particular may become stressed around this time, either because they would like to be the recipient of a grand gesture but worry they won’t, or because they want to avoid such public displays.Alleviating a Child’s Anxiety
As a parent, there are a few things you can do to help alleviate some of this anxiety.
- Listen to their concerns: Talk to children or teenagers to get a sense of how they are feeling about Valentine’s Day. If you sense they are anxious or concerned about whether or not they will receive cards from their peers, or if they are hoping for a gesture from someone in particular, ask them about it and listen without passing judgment or trying to solve the problem for them.
- Offer moral support: The next best thing you can do is to try to normalize their feelings. Let children know that it is okay to feel worried, anxious, or to even want to avoid the whole day altogether. Help them think about the situation more positively by reminding them that it is one day, and the events of that day are often quickly forgotten.
- Check in with your child’s school: For younger kids, touch base with a teacher to find out if there is a classroom rule that each student gives and receives cards so there are no hurt feelings. With older kids or teenagers, try not to get too involved aside from providing moral support. Encourage teens to set an example and be inclusive with their own gestures, whether it be cards or treats.
- Be sensitive: When children come home from school on Valentine’s Day, try to read their mood and demeanor before you decide how to react. Be supportive, understanding, and ready with a listening ear and fun distraction if the day did not turn out how they expected.
- Give your child a Valentine: Make sure to give your children a Valentine, even if that just means an extra hug to let them know they are loved at home. Also, remind children that every day is an opportunity to show how you feel.
About the Expert
Eleanor Mackey, PhD, is a child psychologist and works primarily with the Obesity Institute and Children’s Research Institute. Dr. Mackey is also a mother of two young girls. She has been at Children’s National since 2006 and has been a regular contributor to our “Get Psyched Friday” features since 2012.