Despite our culture’s faulty notions of romance, our modern celebration of Valentine’s Day actually has deep roots in Christian history. One of the best ways to turn the holiday to a good purpose is to emphasize this aspect of the tradition.
You might start by telling your child the story of St. Valentine (Valentinus), in whose honor the day was originally observed. The story is set during the reign of Emperor Claudius II, at a time when the Roman army was involved in many bloody and unpopular military campaigns. Claudius, it seems, was having difficulty recruiting soldiers, and he believed the reason was that men did not want to leave their lovers or families. As a result, he cancelled all marriages and engagements in Rome. Valentine was a Christian priest who aided his fellow believers by performing secret marriages in defiance of the emperor’s decree. As a result, he was arrested and dragged before the Prefect of Rome, who condemned him to death. He suffered martyrdom on the 14th day of February, about the year 270.
The story of Valentine’s life, ministry, and martyrdom can be used to underscore the idea that, from the Christian point of view, love, sex, and romance are all directed toward and summed up in a single biblical concept – the concept of marriage: “From the beginning of creation, God made them male and female. For this cause a man shall leave his father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” (Mark 10:6-8, quoting Genesis 2:24). Valentine gave his life in order to defend, protect, and preserve this precious gift of God. We can celebrate the day by commemorating his sacrifice and reaffirming the value of the institution of marriage.
Valentine’s Day can also provide kids with a healthy way to express affection for others. Like every other holiday, it’s been exploited in the interests of commercial gain, but there’s no reason why we can’t help children see beyond the glitter of cards, flowers, and boxes of candy to the real meaning of love and the true significance of healthy human sexuality. Here are a few suggestions of things you might do to help your child gain a more godly perspective on the subject of love, especially as she moves into the teen years:
- List the characteristics that distinguish true love from infatuation. Place the lists side by side and have your child decide which set of qualities she wants seen in her life.
- Talk about the signs or evidence of true love: how do you know when two people really love one another? Ask your child to provide specific examples from relationships she respects. Discuss her reasons for feeling this way.
- Take a critical look at television, movies, music, and even greeting cards with your child and help her discern the messages they’re designed to communicate. Are they promoting infatuation or real love? Shallow feelings or genuine intimacy? Mere physical chemistry or a deep, selfless commitment to relationship? You’d be surprised what a valuable exercise this might turn out to be.
All things considered, this holiday can be a great time to help kids – teens in particular – consider the larger issues of love and the importance of choosing a life-partner wisely. Emotions and chemistry aren’t inherently wrong – after all, who wants a passionless marriage without any spark? But if romance is only an emotional “buzz,” it’s not love at all. Flowers, cards, and chocolates can be wonderful expressions of affection, but it’s important that kids learn to keep these things in their proper place. After all, true love was created and defined by God – not Cupid.
If you’d like to discuss any of these ideas with a member of our staff, please feel free to call Focus on the Family’s Counseling department.
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