Valentine's Day not for choosy kids: In many schools, it's cards for all or nobody

What's not to love about cards, candy and parties? For kids, Valentine's Day has a lot of fun perks. But the exchange of Valentine's cards have such a history of alienating children that schools have adopted policies to stop them from leaving anyone out of card exchanges.

Teachers and parents don't want kids to feel jealous, but all-or-none policy has problems

Valentine's Day is enjoyed by children around the world. Card exchanges are a regular part of the festivities, but schools have increasingly regulated the practice amongst younger students. (Brendan Fitterer/The Tampa Bay Times/Associated Press)
Cutting out hearts and attaching them to pixie sticks, Vancouver mother and blogger Eschelle Westwood prepares for Valentine's Day by crafting over 50 candy love arrows for the classes of her two young sons.
Eschelle Westwood, who runs the blog 'Mumfection,' is crafting love arrows for her two sons' classes this Valentine's Day. (Eschelle Westwood)

Her sons won't have to be selective as to who receives their love arrows. There will be one for each of the children in her sons' classes, to avoid anybody getting left out. The practice of crafting these treats is something Westwood says she and her children greatly enjoy.

Valentine's Day customs at schools have changed over the years. The once open gift exchange that caused many children to feel slighted has largely been phased out, at least among younger grades. Many schools in Canada have instituted policies requiring kids and their parents to either bring cards for the entire class, or none at all.

"I think schools have rightly recognized that Valentine's is a very risky occasion if you're just sort of letting it be a free-for-all," said Dr. Eleanor Mackey, a child psychologist with Children's National Health System. "Then whoever gets the most valentines is seen to be the most important or the most well liked, where that might be very hurtful to some kids."

Choosing everyone as a Valentine

Schools have tried to avoid the alienation students can feel on Valentine's through the all-or-none card policies — including the elementary school attended by Westwood's sons.
Vancouver native Eschelle Westwood says she supports the policy to have kids give cards to everyone to prevent anyone from feeling left out. (Eschelle Westwood)

"I think it's a good policy," said Westwood. "I'm not keen on having someone, for the day, feel left out because they didn't get as many cards as somebody else."

But for some parents, the policy is not without its downsides and can lead to some tense situations with children.

Toronto blogger Emma Waverman said teaching her three kids why they should give cards to everyone of their classmates was difficult.

I don't think adults are in the position to tell them (children) they have to love everbody.- Emma Waverman , blogger

"They (children) always want to leave one kid out and you have to explain why they need to make sure every child has one — which I do support. But, it's always a long conversation."

Waverman added though she likes the policy, she takes issue with some of the forced feeling children go through on the day of love.

"I don't like the idea of telling children how to feel and I think that — Valentine's Day — its emphasis on love can sometimes be confusing to kids," she said.  "I don't think adults are in the position to tell them they have to love everybody. They do not have to love everybody. They have their friends and they know who their friends are."

Valentine's Day is a holiday created to show love by giving gifts to your significant other or close family. But in schools, young students are often required to share cards with everyone in the class. (Getty Images)

Mackey said it can be hard for children to understand different kinds of love, but making it clear Valentine's can be about other types of relationships is helpful.

"Love isn't equal in the world. We all love different people differently and that's okay, and acceptable and so I think that can get tricky for kids to understand," she said. "But I think that as long as it's (Valentine's cards) portrayed more of a friendship or caring type of thing rather than love love, then I think that helps."

Loving candy more than love

For children, one of the best parts of Valentine's Day is all the treats they get to eat. (Gabriela Klimes/CBC)

Despite some of the difficulties associated with Valentine's Day in schools, parents and teachers have continued to carry on the tradition for their children.

Mackey said nobody really wants to be the one to take the fun of the holiday away from kids.

"I think that it's really hard for any parent or any teacher to be the sort of scrooge who is like, 'no, you can't celebrate Valentine's Day,'" she said.

For kids, Valentine's Day does not completely hinge on the exchange of cards. Much of the day's appeal lies more in the crafts, treats and parties.

Waverman noted that was the case when her children were younger.

"For them, it's just: 'Woohoo, we get another party at school.' Another afternoon off filled with treats. I don't think they think of Valentine's Day as some kind of judgement on their own, personal, social popularity." 

It's (Valentine's Day efforts) worth it in the end. It's always a labour of love.- Eschelle Westwood , blogger

Westwood also said her kids enjoy the treats and parties more than anything else. But her own celebration of the holiday comes from her love of them.

"It's (Valentine's Day) labour intensive, but the kids have so much fun, and it's all worth it when you pick them up from school and they talk about what the great things they did that day (are). So it's worth it in the end. It's always a labour of love."

CBC Forum: Do we try too hard to shield our kids?

Can't see the forum? Click here.


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.