As parents, we love our children.
We make so many sacrifices with time, energy, and commitment. And we want to see them happy, progressing, and thriving.
When we hear or sense that our teen feels left out during Valentine’s Day celebration, we feel sad, upset, and frustrated to see them struggle, perceiving that they are not accepted. And it’s normal to want to do something about it.
After all, kids see signs all around them that they are “supposed to” feel included during Valentine’s Day. Everything from school activities to messages from the media suggests that they “should” be paired up with someone.
What can you do as a parent when you suspect that your teen feels left out?
Look for Clues about Their Feelings
Every teen approaches Valentine’s Day in their own unique way. Maybe your teen will be very open to discuss their dilemma with you and complain about how they are feeling. Or your teen may be withdrawn, sad, or preoccupied about this occasion.
Teens feel different things at different times.
On the one hand, your teen might not feel ready for a romantic relationship. At the same time, though, they may feel the pressure from peers, social media, and society’s traditions to pair up with someone and enjoy what society has promised about Valentine’s Day. And they may feel like this whether or not they are psychologically or emotionally ready for it.
What if your teen is not included, isn’t invited to a party, or doesn’t have a Valentine’s date?
Your teen may feel left out or less than their peers, causing other negative feelings to emerge. Therefore, as a parent, you may really want to fix it for them.
However, it’s generally best to just be available, present, and open for conversation. This helps your teen to know that you are there and care about them. By simply listening to what they are saying and paying attention to your child’s body language, facial expression, and other nonverbal clues, you can get a sense of how they feel.
Moreover, you can take this opportunity to validate them and their contributions. Although it is painful when your teen feels left out, it is a great opportunity to talk to them about what really matters and build their character and self-esteem.
Consider Your Teen’s Personality
Each teen will respond to the holiday romance in their own unique way. If your teen is very outgoing and has a lot of friends, then Valentine’s Day’s pressures and expectations might not impact them so much. On the other hand, if your teen has some issues with social anxiety, then this pressure might exacerbate these underlying issues.
Teens with social anxiety might be worrying that:
- Peers will think less of them because they don’t have a partner
- Their gifts choices are not good enough, which could increase their anxiety
- The images they share on social media won’t impress others
- They are letting other people down if they don’t fulfill the right role
If you sense that your teen is sensitive to social anxiety, then you may need to be careful about what you say around them.
Teens want to be genuinely respected, especially by their parents. Bringing up their positive character traits and avoiding any mention of shyness or being a loner can help build them up and encourage them to believe in themselves. When a teen feels left out, they need that extra boost of confidence.
Discuss the Reality of Relationships and Valentine’s Day
One of the things that you can talk about with your teen—not just during this season but all throughout the year—is that the media, and especially social media, present a distorted image of reality.
You can start showing your kids examples of how much marketing plays into Valentine’s Day—stores display candy, flowers, and other consumer items. And then ask your teen how that makes them feel.
Also, open up the conversation about how social media makes everything look better than it is. For instance, even if your teen receives a gift from the person that they are dating, they might not feel like it’s good enough when compared with what others share on social media.
However, it’s important for them to keep in mind that this one image doesn’t represent the whole experience. Similarly, Valentine’s Day doesn’t represent a whole relationship. It is just one angle, one view, and it doesn’t tell the whole story.
Encourage your teen to think about the bigger picture and the reality of their experience. Once again, use this as a teaching opportunity about what is healthy in a relationship and what your family values.
Ask, for example: What if someone has a boyfriend that gives them the largest bouquet of flowers, but he is also disrespectful and aggressive?
Open up a conversation with your teen about which of these things is more important. Ask your teens about their desires, priorities, and values they look for in a partner to get them to start thinking about those important topics. Then, listen carefully to your teen’s responses with openness, non-judgment, and empathy.
Show Valentine’s Love as a Family
Finally, one of the most important things that you can do as a parent to ease your teen’s pain when they feel left out is to celebrate Valentine’s Day as a family holiday.
First of all, this keeps your teen busy, so they aren’t dwelling on what they don’t have. Second, it allows them to experience gifts within the context of true family love and appreciation. Lastly, it reminds them that there are many types of love and that romantic love is just one type.
Some of the things that you can do as a family for Valentine’s Day include:
- Give cards, flowers, chocolate, or other gifts to your teen
- Create a family tradition where every person says what they love about each other
- Share a device-free family dinner
- Make Valentine’s cards together to give to others
- Call grandparents and other family members to say Happy Valentine’s Day
- Go out to the movies together or watch a movie at home as a family
Even if your teen feels left out from their peer group, you can remind them that they’re a key part of your family and will never be left out there.
Ultimately, if your teen has a lot of problems overcoming negative feelings of being excluded in social events or by peers, or if you believe they’re dealing with social anxiety, they could benefit from therapy.
Learn more about my approach to teen counseling here.