Ages 13-17 (Teen)Parenting Styles

Why Valentine’s Day Sucks For Teens

They say that being a teenager sucks. If so, then it certainly sucks even more around Valentine’s Day. Romance is hard enough at any age, but when your teenage hormones are raging and you have hardly any experience controlling the emotions you are feeling, it becomes a cruel, harsh slave master.

How Valentine’s Day came to be connected to romantic love is kind of murky, but it is generally thought that it was Geoffrey Chaucer who introduced the idea in his “ Parlement of Foules”. It had something to do with the mating of birds around St. Valentine’s Day, the actual date of which is confusing due to the precession of equinoxes and the introduction of the Gregorian calendar in 1582. (1)

It gained greater popularity in the 19th century and today it is a major retail holiday when huge amounts of greeting cards, candy, and flowers are sold. Given the money to be made, businesses hype the every loving hell out of it. This, in turn, embeds it into the popular consciousness which then causes teenage angst across the country.

My stepson, NK, has been having more than his share of problems with romance. Two years ago he become fixated on a girl in one of his classes. He drew her pictures. They were pictures of her as anime characters. He’s a wonderful artist and they were lovely, innocent drawings. Unfortunately, she wasn’t interested in him and the pictures made her uncomfortable and she politely returned them to him and told him she wasn’t comfortable with him giving them to her.

You should know that NK has ASD. He’s smart and kind, but also terrible with social cues and, like many kids with ASD, he obsesses about things. In this case he started to obsess about this girl. I can’t go into details about what happened between then and now out of respect for NK’s privacy, but he’s been in and out of the psychiatric hospital several times because of either inappropriate social behavior or suicidal thoughts and behaviors.

He’s been seeing a therapist, on medication, and transfered to an alternative school away from the girl. He’s had his ups and downs, but has been doing much better, until Valentine’s Day reared it’s ugly head.

Since February 1st he has been acting depressed and cranky. If you mention anything related to love or romance he gets all upset. My daughter and wife were talking about a nice prom dress that my daughter saw at the mall and NK insisted that they stop talking about proms, even though they were really just talking about a nice dress. You can’t even say the word “girlfriend” in any context whatever without him freaking out.

NK is an extreme case, but I know from my own experience when I was his age that not having a valentine at Valentine’s Day is pretty depressing. So much is made of this day of romance and it is hard to escape it unless you live under a rock.

When I was a kid, we used to all bring valentines for others in the class to school. The teacher would collect them and then, at the end of the day pass them out. Of course, the popular kids would get tons. Kids like me, a few, if lucky. It was agonizing and humiliating.

Teens are obsessed enough as it is about love and romance, having to deal with Valentine’ Day just makes it all that much harder. As parents, we can, and will, tell them that Valentine’s Day is just another day; that they are still young and don’t need to worry about love and romance just yet. Of course, these suggestions will inevitable go over like a lead balloon, but some of it just might sink in.

I’ve found that one thing to do is to is keep them busy and distracted. If they like video games, play games with them. Take them somewhere on Valentine’s Day; perhaps bowling, or rock climbing, skating, whatever it is they like to do and would be a special treat for them. It might not be the same coming from you, but just letting them know that they are special and loved can certainly help.

(1) Oruch, Jack B., “St. Valentine, Chaucer, and Spring in February“, Speculum, 56 (1981): 534–65.

Featured image by {Flixelpix} David


Jay is a dad, husband, and pet lover. He has a degree in Theater Arts and works as a Unix systems administrator, mainly because he has a degree in Theater Arts. He used to be a single dad, but now he is married to the perfect woman. He has two teenagers, a daughter, and a step-son. He also has an adult son. He shares his home with his wife, kids, an Australian Shepherd, and a bevy of adorable chihuahuas. He is a skeptic and humanist and tries to contribute to spreading rationality by writing about skeptical topics. You can find samples of his writing on his personal blog at Freethinking For Dummies, the JREF blog, and in Skeptical Inquirer magazine.

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