I tried something new for Valentine’s this year that became so wonderful, I wanted to share it with you. I saw a suggestion on-line about hanging a heart shaped piece of paper on your child’s door with a different message every day. I really liked the idea, but I did not love the execution. The example I saw had statements like “you are smart,” “you are beautiful,” “you are good at sports,” etc. On the surface those seem like nice sentiments, but they lacked specificity and sincerity. There was just no substance. I wanted to say wonderful, supportive things to my children, but I wanted them to mean something. I wanted them to know how unique and special I really feel they are. With this in mind, here is how you do a heart note:
1) You could make a bunch of palm-sized hearts out of colored construction paper, or you don’t have to. What matters is the message not the paper. My youngest called them heart notes because of the shape of the paper. I felt the name was perfect because the messages came from the heart.
2) Keep the notes private. It is so easy for a child to think that because you express love to a sibling then somehow that love is not available to them anymore. I’ve seen enough jealousy to know that the heart note experience could become negative if they started comparing notes. So I told them that they could not share, that the notes were private and special and just for them. My girls got it and agreed. Not once did they try to compare.
3) Be very specific. When you are specific you are perceived as sincere. So instead of “you are beautiful” say “I love your crazy, curly blond hair,” or “I love seeing your smile. It makes me feel happy inside.”
4) Notice character qualities. Notice effort and hard work. Instead of “good job” try “I love watching how you were trying so hard on that math worksheet. You didn’t give up and then you got it! That took determination.” Or try, “I love seeing how kind you were to your friend when she was sad,” or “I love how you help me with the little things, thank you.”
5) Make sure some of the messages convey unconditional, no-strings attached love. This is the kind of thing that ALL kids need from their parents. This it the Christ-like love we all need to experience in order to flourish. My favorite way to express it was to simply say, “I love you because you are MINE. I am so glad God blessed my life with you.”
Needless to say, my girls loved the heart notes so much that they still keep them under their pillows in zipper bags. Every morning they would wake up and ask, “Where is my heart note?” After they read them, the smiles would make their faces glow. Now, I know that Valentine’s Day has passed, but I would challenge you to not wait. You do not need an excuse to give your children a note from the heart.