Are you the type of parent who can lock your teen in a bear hug and whisper sweet nothings in his ear? My teenage daughter might indulge me for 10 seconds, but my boys would probably rather hug a table. It’s not that we’re a cold family. We’re just not one of those touchy, huggy types of families.
Not all families with teens are physically and vocally demonstrative. I admire a 16-year-old boy who can sling his arms around his mom’s shoulders in front of his friends. Many parents and teens are comfortable in openly expressing their love for each other — and that’s fabulous.
But if your relationship with your teen is the “arms-length” variety, or worse — distant or nonexistent, Valentine’s Day provides a perfect opportunity to dish up some love. Consider surprising your teen with one of the following:
1. Print out a homemade coupon, roll it up and tie it in a red ribbon. What would your teen appreciate? No chores on Saturday, a free dessert, one hour extra of video game time, breakfast in bed or a date night with dad are some simple ideas to be redeemed at your teen’s leisure.
2. Create a “52 things that I love about you” deck of cards, like this one. Your teen will treasure this gift, and you’ll enjoy brainstorming all the little things you adore about your child.
3. Kids love to eat. Serve your teen's favorite dinner, complete with a special, nonalcoholic drink and a scrumptious dessert.
4. Tuck mini love notes into your teen’s backpack, lunch, pillow, sock drawer and any other place that would bring a smile to his or her face.
5. Leave a small gift in his or her bedroom. Try a single rose, a card, socks/underwear adorned with hearts or a small box of chocolates.
6. Set out bowls of Valentine’s candy and watch a movie together. Find one that showcases the love between parents and children. Disney’s “Tarzan,” “Cheaper by the Dozen,” “The Incredibles” or “Freaky Friday” are a few ideas.
7. Everyone loves a treasure hunt. Hide Valentine’s candy around your home and let your teen sniff it out.
8. Enlist your teen’s help in a secret service for a lonely friend or neighbor. Bake heart-shaped cookies to leave on the person’s porch.
9. If your teen grumbles about Valentine’s Day, have an anti-Valentine’s Day celebration. Watch a football game or comedy together (nothing mushy or romantic). Grab some fast food and prepare a non-chocolate dessert.
10. Swallow any awkwardness and vocalize your love. Grab your teen, look him in the eye, and express your love openly and sincerely.
Use Valentine’s Day as an opportunity to connect with your teen. Maybe your heart bursts whenever you see your son or daughter, but your children can't read your mind. Use the day to express all the things you love about your children that aren’t mentioned in your day-to-day interactions.