The countdown to Valentine’s Day is well underway. It’s obvious to anyone who enters a store that sells candy or greeting cards. Maybe you “won” Christmas gift-giving, but now there’s another giving obligation right around the corner.

Or is it an opportunity? Maybe we can view the commercialism as a reminder to start making plans to do something special for your wife and with your wife. Pull out all the stops as you celebrate and renew the love you have.
While you’re at it—or for any dads who may not be married or in a relationship—why not be your child’s valentine as well? Our kids also need to know they are highly valued and deeply loved, especially by the most important man in their lives.

In many situations, it’s usually Mom who buys and wraps gifts and does the extra little things. But men, our children need to hear from us also—our daughters and our sons.

And if you’re a dad who doesn’t live with your kids or see them as much as you’d like, Valentine’s Day can be one more chance to reach out and strengthen that connection.

We’re putting this out almost a month early so you can start planning ways to affirm your kids. And compared to Christmas, there’s much less pressure. They probably haven’t made up a Valentine’s Day gift list, so whatever we do to show our love for them will be greatly appreciated.

So maybe this is an opportunity to be creative. What does your love for your son or daughter prompt you to do? Here are some ideas to get you started:

Give time. Most of the stuff we buy as gifts will be worn out or obsolete in a few years, but making a memory with your child can last a lifetime. So consider a gift of an activity you do together. It could be tickets to a ballet performance or a basketball game, an afternoon at an archery range or shopping center, or simply lunch at a special restaurant. Start with your child’s interests and see where it leads you.

Have something delivered. Maybe call a florist and have flowers delivered, or send an arrangement of candy, cookies, or a stuffed animal. Or maybe a pizza.

Make their morning special. Bring them breakfast in bed, sprinkle cinnamon hearts on their cereal, or draw hearts on their bathroom mirror with an erasable marker. Or something else you know they’d like.

Take it to school. Call ahead and arrange to bring a pizza at lunchtime. You might get to sit down and have a slice and meet her friends. (With middle schoolers, maybe drop off the pizza and then split.) Maybe you can arrange to help with the class Valentine’s party. Or sign up to volunteer an entire day at the school through WATCH D.O.G.S. or a similar program. You’ll be the high point of their day.

Find the right gift. Okay, things you buy aren’t all bad. They can help create meaningful connections and make your child feel loved—and that’s what Valentine’s Day is all about, right? But instead of pulling out the credit card and getting five things that they might want, keep it pretty small and simple. Find something that shows you put some real thought into what would make them feel special.

Maybe some music downloads or a funny e-card, with a few personal thoughts from your heart. Or something else they didn’t ask for but you heard them talking about—to show that you are tuned in to them.

For some ideas, there are many inexpensive necklaces and pendants—for girls and boys—to help you send the right message at Valentine’s Day. Check out giftsfromdad.org. (You can have some items personally engraved if you order in time.)

And if you have a teenager or a young adult who isn’t in a relationship right now, this is a chance to offer some memorable affirmation. That small gift, treat or lunch date will be a reminder that even if they don’t have a “valentine” right now, there’s one important man in their life who thinks they’re very special.

Share your ideas. What creative things have you done to affirm your children in the past on Valentine’s Day? Please join the conversation on our Facebook page.