We have for you Valentines 2.0, also known as Girls Leadership Love Notes, a tradition adored by many of our Summer Program participants for over 15 years. Love Notes can be a Valentine’s note, but the ways in which they differ are important. Here’s how a Girls Leadership Love Note Works:
Step 1: Take Ten Minutes Together.
Love notes aren’t just something for girls to do, this is important for all of us. At our Summer Program, our staff puts on the tunes and sits on the floor with the girls. At home, try to experience this together with your daughter so that she can see you reflect on your relationships, express yourself, and take some potentially awkward risks.
Step 2: Get your crafts out.
It’s not just what you say, it is how you say it. Enjoy some construction paper, those scissors that make patterns are fun, stickers often bring inexplicable joy, or at least get yourself a colorful marker or pen.
Step 3: Think of something that you admire about someone.
Notice we didn’t say someone you admire. Maybe you admire them, maybe you don’t know them very well yet (like that person who you buy your bagel from every week). There is tons of pressure on girls to find that BFF, squad, or boyfriend that will be the be-all, end-all, ride-off-into the sunset relationship. Those unrealistic expectations don’t help us build the many kinds of relationships, or relationship skills that we want for our girls. Focus instead on the whole awesome spectrum of relationships between “BFF” and “mortal enemy”.
Step 4: Get specific.
We ask our participants to think about what qualities they admire in a person, or what the person said or did that had an impact on her. Some examples might be (names have not been changed):
Jahleese, I am so inspired how you’ve followed your dreams to learn to bake at the professional level.
Allan, I love how you carve on one-on-one time for each of your grandkids.
Judith, I admire how gracefully you’ve moved your family several times over the last several years. I know it wasn’t easy.
Love notes don’t need to be long – one to three sentences is great, as long as those one to three sentences are specific.
Step 5: Skip the fashion praise.
Often we connect with others in the easiest way possible—around those things we can see, like awesome high tops, a great haircut, or an inspiring earring collection. We ask our participants to push themselves past the surface to recognize what someone does or who they are. There is nothing wrong with complementing a great pair of jeans, but Love Notes teach the writer how to connect at the next level.
Why take the time to challenge yourself and your family to express yourselves Love Note style?
First, because most of us have experienced gossip, saying things about other people that we wish we hadn’t. Most of us know how that feels afterwards. Give your kids the opposite experience– recognize what is great in someone else. Lifting up another person can be way more addicting than bringing them down. Where else do we practice putting a quality compliment in writing to another person?
Second, by getting specific in our praise Love Notes teach us to ask the specific questions about what it is we admire about someone, to consider behaviors and actions rather than a person’s “je ne sais quoi”. This perspective is one we want our kids to internalize when they think about relationships as well as themselves. Rather than thinking of the world as “in my squad,” or, “not in my squad,” they can reflect about who is a good listener, who is into fun adventures, or who makes me laugh. We need all these qualities in our lives.
Third, this kind of communication can be a catalyst. During our Summer Program we ask our parents and caregivers to write their girl a love note telling her the qualities they admire about her, and the actions and behaviors that make her awesome. Our participants hold onto their Love Notes from parents and peers year round, a touchstone waiting for them after a hard day. These Love Notes remind our girls of the authentic relationships that support them across distances of time and geography. Once you start the cycle of acknowledging what you admire in others, there is no telling where this will take you, or your girl, or boy.
Notes for parents of older kids:
If you have an adolescent (or adolescents) at home, the Love Note suggestions may meet some resistance. This vulnerable style of communication isn’t right for all relationships or all people. Pushing the idea leads to a forced and inauthentic activity (not the point). All you can do is let your loved one know that you want to try a new kind of Valentine this year, give it a few days for the conversation to percolate, and make the space and craft supplies available if she wants to join you.