It seems to be a practice that’s on the rise: One in 20 UK adults have sent a card to their parent or their child, according to a national poll of 2,024 adults on behalf of Clintons. More cards are sent to mums than dads; and those parents aged 45-54 are most likely to send a Valentine to their child, with mums twice as likely as dads to send a card.
This growing trend has also been noted by Moonpig, as they told HuffPost UK two of the top 20 most popular photo upload cards last Valentine’s Day were ‘Love you Daddy’ and ‘Love you Mummy’. They believe there’s a broader societal shift towards more inclusive ways to mark the big calendar moment: “It’s the same trend we see behind the rise in ‘palentines’ and ‘mate night’ Valentine’s cards,” a spokesperson explains.
Anne-Marie O’Leary, Netmums editor-in-chief said the site’s users are big fans of making Valentine’s Day a family affair. “Love, in whatever form, is something to be celebrated, so we’re all for families sending each other cards and using the day to celebrate their love for one another (and if you can get the kids to make the cards as a way of keeping them quiet – even better),” she says.
Annalisa Del Carro, 35, mum to baby Aura, is one of those parents who loves sending Valentine’s cards to her child. She has already started the tradition for her daughter.
“She is only 10 months old, therefore she can’t send me one. I love writing cards so I thought I would write her one until she is old enough to send one,” says Del Carro.
“I want to tell her how I met her dad and what love is about. She will then read it later in life and have a fantastic memory. Nowadays everything is digital, and frivolous; in a world full of social media ‘stories’ that last only 24 hours, I want to mark a memory in the ‘old school’ way: pen and paper.”
Jamie Beaglehole, 37, and his partner Thomas Muirhead, feel the same. They are parents to eight-year-old Richard and nine-year-old Lyall. They love the fact their kids send Valentine’s cards to them every year, arguing that these are the moments you should cherish with your children while they’re young.
“Receiving anything handmade from the boys is wonderful and I can’t think of any reason why somebody would find it weird,” says Beaglehole.
“It’s only weird if the adult makes it weird? Possibly the same kind of people who don’t kiss their kids? We’re not those people!”
“We like to celebrate every little thing as a family – all four of us feel very lucky to have found each other when we did,” adds Beaglehole.
“I can’t remember whether their cards come from school or from home – we’re always making homemade cards for everything; Tom and I even get Mother’s Day and Diwali cards some years.”
But not everyone agrees that kids should be involved in the tradition of sending cards on the 14 February. Some argue this should be saved for those in romantic relationships, and others believe love should be displayed all year round.
“It’s missing the point,” says Siobhan Freegard, founder of ChannelMum.com. “Your love for your children is unconditional and different to anything else you’ll ever experience, so should be something you show all year round.”
Freegard says there seems to be a growing trend for adults to expect cards from children, which in turn puts pressure on the child. She suggests if you really want to send your child a Valentine’s card, there’s no harm done, but kids would probably much prefer you to keep the money and spend more time with them. “Why not use the time you’d have spent making the card to make a picture about your family together with your child?” she suggests. “Or spend the money on ingredients to bake a cake together, which the whole family can enjoy?
“Remember, though Valentine’s Day is a £1bn a year industry in the UK, money can’t buy love, especially between parents and children. It’s more lovely to be a good mum and dad for the rest of the year.”
Simon Ragoonanan, who blogs at manvspink.com and has a six-year-old daughter, is on the same side of the fence as Freegard. “I have no doubt it’s done with the purest of parental intentions, but I find it a bit creepy,” he says. “To me Valentine’s Day, in all its commercial glory, has always been about romantic love, even sexual desire. Never about the very different kind of love between parents and children.
“If my daughter decides to send me a card, that’s lovely. I imagine it’s especially welcome if you’re a single parent. But I do wish playgroups, nurseries, and schools would stop encouraging this. It’s contrived to involve kids in it in this way. If we want kids to be into Valentine’s Day, then I think they should be sending them to each other.”
Ragoonanan tells his daughter Valentine’s cards are for mummy and daddy to celebrate their love for each other. “Our daughter knows the way we love each other is different than the way we love her,” he adds.
Whatever you think as a parent, the most important person you need to involve in this conversation is your child. Relate counsellor, Dee Holmes argues it may be worth considering the age of the child, how secure they feel about themselves and whether they’ve started dating yet before you think about sending them a card.
“Some children can find receiving a Valentine’s Day card from their parents embarrassing, due to the romantic connotations, especially if they’re a little older and their friends tease them about it,” she says. “Sending a card without saying who it’s from could falsely raise your child’s hopes about having an admirer.
“If they find out the card is from you they may then feel deceived and discovering it wasn’t from a potential love interest could affect their self-esteem.
“Every family and child is different and some kids may enjoy receiving Valentine’s Day cards. If you try it out and yours appreciate it, keep doing it but if they appear embarrassed then maybe leave the cards for birthdays.”
Holmes said if you all send each other cards as a family, and everyone is comfortable about it, this could be a nice way of showing that you appreciate one another. But, she adds, it’s also important to explain the concept of exchanging cards: “Explain that sometimes boyfriends and girlfriends give each other these cards but that also parents sometimes give them to their children.
“Say that Valentine’s Day is a chance to tell the people close to you how much you love them but that it’s nice to remind each other how much you care in small ways every day.”