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All Children and Youth Thrive!

By Mary Tabak, Our Kids Network Developmental Assets Project Manager

It was Valentine’s Day and I was 11 years old. The day began the same way most days did – get up, get ready for school and then breakfast in my mom’s kitchen.

I had no expectations of Valentine’s Day. In fact growing up in an immigrant family, chocolate hearts and “I love you” cards were considered frivolous and expensive, when there were real things to worry about like food, safety, and trying to belong. Valentine’s Day was one of the most difficult school days for me because it highlighted the fact that, as newcomer students at school, my siblings and I were “outside the inner circle”. This was proven, during the exchange of Valentine’s Day cards, by the lack of candy-grams and cards that we received .

But on this particular Valentine’s Day, something was different.

As I sat down for breakfast, I saw with delight that my mom, who was usually very preoccupied with the work of the day, had turned our every-day, plain, round pancakes into beautiful, heart-shaped ones. My brothers, sisters and I laughed with glee as my mom smiled and said, “Happy VALENTINO Day!”

I’m not sure if we were laughing at the pancakes, the word “Valentino” or the fact that somehow we felt like we had just broken through that impenetrable inner circle. Her caring and creative gesture gave me hope that everything was going to be just fine.

The rest of that day paled in comparison, but as I think back to it this Valentine’s Day, I wonder about all those kids on the “outside of the inner circle” and how one small act of caring, by pretty-well anyone, could make the same huge difference to their day.

You get the idea! Low cost/no cost options are often the most meaningful. Celebrate the relationships in your life this Valentine’s Day by making someone else’s day brighter. And if you’re up for a challenge, talk to the kids in your life about inclusion, empathy, compassion and the importance of relationships in their life.

Happy “Valentino” Day, everyone!

Learn more about caring relationships at ourkidsnetwork.ca/relationshipsfirst