Whether it’s cancer or developmental disability, diabetes or a heart condition, it’s starting to look like your Valentine’s Day is going to be a little different than the breakfast-in-bed, flowers-and-chocolates commercials you’ve been seeing on TV. But just because you can’t celebrate in the traditional ways doesn’t mean you have to give up on celebrating your love – in fact, when your child is sick, it may be your most important and meaningful Valentine’s Day ever. We here at Digging Deep know what it’s like to celebrate when it seems like the last thing you should be doing is celebrating. And here are five things we’ve learned about celebrating Valentines Day:
1. Make It Personal
A good gift has very little to do with the thing itself. Instead, a good gift expresses connection between the person giving and the person getting. Ask yourself: What do you know about your sick child that no one else knows? What inside understandings or jokes do you share? Then ask how you can show this understanding with a gift. Maybe it’s a “coupon book” with a collection of small, special experiences?
2. Be Vulnerable
When trying to establish a heart-to-heart connection, you can’t ask your loved one to open his or her heart first. Instead, be vulnerable. Be the one to open your heart. Go first. Expressing your feelings and even your fears can be a powerful act of love.
3. Sometimes “Normal” is Special
Depending on your loved one’s illness, maybe normalcy is even better than razzle-dazzle – and, in fact, razzle-dazzle may only serve to call more attention to their illness. If your child trades cards with friends at school, consider gathering getting cards from their classes to open at home or at the hospital. If you have traditions, like eating sugary candy hearts, make this year special by showing your loved one that “normal” life still exists.
4. Help to Express Gratitude
As good as it feels to hear someone say “thank you”, it can feel even better to say it. Gratitude heals. And Valentine’s Day can be the perfect opportunity for your loved one to express gratitude to family, friends or even to the health professionals who are helping deal with illness.
And if none of these tips seem just right for your loved one, try the direct approach. If you need four ways to say ‘I love you’, try this: “I love you, I love you, I love you, I love you.”
Garth Sundem is a parent, husband, and author of books including “Real Real Kids, Real Stories, Real Change”.