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By celebrating Valentine’s Day as a part elementary school curriculum, teachers are inviting romantic behavior without giving their students the tools to navigate it properly.
According to Encyclopaedia Britannica, Valentine’s Day exists for lovers to express their affection for one another. Teachers promote this theme through the exchange of “Valentines” between students. While this activity is harmless in isolation, educators fail to realize that they are essentially childproofing what is an overtly sexual and mature holiday.
Even if teachers skew the focus to friendship and appreciation, they have no control over how their students choose to interpret the day’s celebrations. Kids could see this as a perfect occasion to send their crush a love note or ask them to be their significant other.
Valentine’s Day flirtations seem harmless from the perspective of a college student, but the idea of romance is foreign to young children in the United States—primarily because our regulations surrounding relationship education are lacking.
“Regardless of whether their parents condone holding hands on the playground, kids need to know how to treat the people they care about with respect.”
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 99 percent of all public school students will have nutrition education at some point. But sex education, which includes curricula surrounding healthy relationships, is not required by the Colorado Department of Education, meaning they could have none.
Kids are not taught how to express their romantic feelings for one another in a healthy ways. This means that students have absolutely no idea how to act on a romantic occasion such as Valentine’s Day.
We need to teach children that is it okay to say no and how to take rejection without letting it impact their self-worth. Regardless of whether their parents condone holding hands on the playground, kids need to know how to treat the people they care about with respect.
Elementary school students are impressionable at their young age, which makes these lessons even more necessary. University of Michigan professor Jacquelynne S. Eccles said that the development that occurs throughout the ages of 6 to 14 is crucial to the formation of identity.
A day like Valentine’s Day, when not handled properly, can leave kids feeling stressed, confused and hurt. Their impressionability could provide them with misguided notions about relationships and identity that they could carry on through adulthood.
Valentine’s Day celebrations are not the only factor in affecting unhealthy romantic interactions, but they certainly are a contributor to a cultural mindset that makes it more common.
We cannot simultaneously treat sex and relationships as taboo and encourage kids to partake in activities that imply these very things. In doing so, we endanger kids to become victims of and to perpetuate the rape culture it feels like our country has become known for.
According to ABC News, Americans spend roughly $1 billion on Valentine’s Day greeting cards in one year. It is a special holiday for many, which should be a positive thing.
It is a day of kindness and opportunity, when romantics get a chance to show their appreciation for another human being, and maybe even begin a beautiful relationship.
We can make it positive for children too. If they must send one another Valentines on Feb. 14, let’s use it as an opportunity to teach them how to love one another and themselves in a healthy way.
Abby Vander Graaff can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or Twitter at @abbym_vg.