It’s good to demonstrate love year-round, but Valentine’s Day is a special day we set aside to make it a priority to make those close to us, including our kids, feel special. You don’t have to do this by splurging on chocolates or toys. Whether your child has autism or is neurotypical, there are a variety of simple, inexpensive ways to spread the love on Valentine’s Day—or any day of the year. Here are seven.
1. Write a list of things you love about them
What characteristics make your child particularly awesome? The adorable way he laughs? Her compassionate heart? His tenderness toward animals? Her sense of humor? Make a list of the top 10 to 20 reasons they rock and either print it out on a nice piece of paper or write it in a blank card. Kind, encouraging words can really mean a lot. They can also be a powerful tool against low self-esteem; whenever your child feels down, they can pull out the list and remind themselves of all their good qualities.
2. In their presence, brag about them to people
This is one of the few situations in which bragging can be a good thing. Strategically strike up a conversation with someone else, like a significant other, in your child’s presence. “Did you see that John made me the prettiest Valentine’s Day card? He has such a big heart!” Overhearing someone talk about them positively is a really great feeling that’ll make them feel extra special.
3. Hug them for no apparent reason
If your child responds well to physical touch, reach out and give them a hug at random. This gesture is a simple yet warm way to demonstrate your affection.
4. Help them out with their chores
Isn’t it awesome when someone you love does your chores for you? Well, why not do that for your child? Help them clean their room, take out the trash, and pick up their toys. Better yet, do the chores for them! Yes, your child needs to learn personal responsibility and take care of their own chores, but think about it: it’s just one day. And your child may really appreciate it.
5. Make them a special treat
Whether it’s that awesome, gluten-free cookie recipe you got from another autism parent, a delectable cupcake, or even some homemade candy, consider celebrating Valentine’s Day by giving your child a special treat they don’t get too often. Just be sure to make a small batch or share them with the rest of the family so your child won’t be overloaded with sugar.
6. Pack their favorite lunch for school
Valentine’s Day falls on a Sunday this year, but why not extend the celebration just a little longer? Packing their favorite lunch for school the next day—and letting them know you’re doing so because it’s their favorite—is another little thing that can mean a lot.
7. Spend quality time together
Spending time together is an important way to bond. Make a snowman if you have enough of that cold, white fluff on the ground. Watch a movie together. Cuddle up and read them a book. Play their favorite game. The possibilities are truly endless. And it doesn’t really matter what you do, as long as your child is happy and you are together.