Resources / For teens

Parent Conversation Guide: Valentine’s Day & Teen Rejection Sensitivity

Concerned mother behind teen hugging pillow on couch
Brightline Logo Mark Orange
Brightline team

Feb 12, 2024

Valentine's Day is often celebrated in American schools. It can typically be framed as a day of showing gratitude and/or expressing feelings of love, affection and friendship. There’s also an element of commercialization that markets valentines cards, candy, grams, and gifts. With these celebrations, however, come feelings of pressure, anxiety and fear of rejection. But before we can help young people navigate these feelings, we must understand how our kids interpret this holiday.

For our teens

There is a lot of commercial, social/peer, and social media pressure to have the "perfect" valentine's day, receive the most valentine cards/gifts, have a special someone, wear the perfect outfit, take the perfect pictures etc.. Valentine's Day and days like it create extra pressure on our kids and young people to perform, to have a special someone, and to have the "right" amount of friends - you name it.  The numerous social expectations can create anxiety and depression, impact self esteem and self confidence, and alter a person's sense of belonging.

For our LGBTQ kids

Valentine's Day can be even more stressful for our LGBTQ+ children and young people who already struggle to fit in and find a sense of community and belonging.  Historically, Valentine's Day is represented in ways that exclude certain groups, certain types of relationships, different types of expressions of affection, friendship, and love.  Our LGBTQ+ children and adolescents can often feel left out on these types of days, causing them to mask who they are, and struggle to find a sense of belonging among the greater cisheteronormative cultures.

For the neurodiverse

Young children and adolescents who are neurodiverse may find Valentine’s Day confusing, and uncomfortable. The typical expressions of friendship, affection and love can feel foreign or strange, causing them to feel isolated, lonely or excluded because of their differences. How do we help 

It's important to know what our children and adolescents understand and expect from holidays like Valentine's Day.  Open a dialogue and be curious about what they may have heard, what they've seen, and what they think is important.  This helps us become aware of  incorrect assumptions and gives us the opportunity to clarify and/or change assumptions our young people may have.  We can also encourage our young people  to set more realistic expectations. 

  1. Reframe language from "they should" to "I wish they" would get me something for Valentine's Day. This softer request versus expectation will allow for their feelings to be more flexible and less rigid.  

  2. Provide an open, non-judgmental space for your children and adolescents to process their feelings. We can inadvertently give the message that we don't care about their feelings when we invalidate, minimize, and/or dismiss their thoughts, experiences, and feelings. Reminding ourselves of the pressure we faced as young people to fit in and belong is helpful in empathizing with our young people and often helps us respond from a place of understanding.  

  3. Validating their feelings is key to open and healthy communication. Phrases like "I can understand that must be hard for you", "I can see how that makes you feel pressured", "I imagine that makes you feel really lonely,” acknowledges their experience and offers understanding and support.

  4. Avoid going into "fix it mode." We can't, and we don't need to fix emotions. Even though sometimes hard, these situations need to be experienced, and are developmentally appropriate opportunities to navigate social stressors, challenging emotions, and social nuances. These opportunities build resiliency, self awareness, and important social skills.  

  5. Ask your kids what they need from us. Whether it’s to listen, problem solve, provide physical forms of affection, and/or explore other ways we can show up for them, let them tell you the type of guidance they need.

We're here for you, and we can help with these conversations. Brightline provides virtual mental health care for children and teens. Sign up to learn more.