We’ve gotten past the hustle and bustle of the winter holiday, but the warmth of spring has yet to set in. Students in your classroom are just beginning to settle back and focus. However, Valentine’s Day looms… the day to tell your most tender thoughts to another, the day a young girls looks forward to that small gift, candy, flowers—and immature gents expect comments, looks, and flirtatious messages. Everyone wants this day to be their special time. Everyone wants to be remembered for all their positive charm.

ADHD impulsivity, however, often acts like a sword, cutting off the good feelings of others. Unexpected actions from the student with ADHD can make peers move away, and can make attempts to make friends fail. The more introverted type is defined as aloof and shy, giving the message that she wants nothing to do with the other girls, and to be left alone. The show-off guy who is always in trouble is labeled as the one to stay well away from.

As is so often true, teachers approach the day by encouraging decorated shoeboxes or paper bags for mailboxes, and by sending out class lists instructing that everyone gives a Valentine to everyone in the class. The intent is pure, but what really happens?

Only two classmates out of a class of thirty give Tommy valentines. How could that be? Susie gets strange and altered messages giving her a healthy belt of negativity. Her fragile self-esteem is stomped into the ground. She hears from those she fears and not from those she hopes will be her friend. Francis receives freaky mementos and his sensitivity raises his hostility. He is ready to take on anyone who may have sent him a message. Perhaps that message was harmless, but his interpretation shook his security.

Okay teacher, now what! You have a lot of emotional repair to work through. Sticks and stones are obvious, but words create lasting breaks in a child’s emotional security.

When possible, try a new approach.

Begin by asking your class for a list of words that describe nice things about another human being. What do they like about others? Talk about how all of us love to hear nice things said about us. Share some of your own favorite things that were said about you. Continue until you have a healthy list of “good” comments.

Next, hand out a list of all of the students in your class with ample space to write after each name. Have each student fill in his list by selecting at least two things from the board to describe each person in the class. Copy and send home the suggestions if necessary so the assignment can be completed. If the class is large, cut the list in half, distributing it to those on the list.

At the front of the room, have a “mailbox.” This could be a large envelope, basket, or a box. When finished with their list, students turn in their responses. It is possible to list a word more than once. They must list at least two positives for each one in the class.

When the day is over, take these comments home and select the best for each child.

Have your Certificate of Valentine’s Day already printed and ready to go. Simply add three to four good comments for each child. Sign it as whatever is appropriate; for example, Your Fifth Grade Valentines. Everyone gets a controlled positive statement. Some of the students with ADHD in your class may never have been rewarded with such positive recognition before.

I did this for the students in a whole school, for many years running, and have had young adults come to me remembering, even to this day, what their good traits were. Some still have their cards. I was reminded of this when they came to help me celebrate my anniversary last year.

It’s too late, you say, save this for next year. Then use the idea with adaptation for St. Patrick’s Day, Easter, or another holiday (Uncle Sam reminds you that YOU ARE—).

Corny works, but the honesty of the feeling lasts forever. Working with adults, I so often hear, I wish someone had told me I was okay when I was in school, struggling and floundering. You have a chance to do it, right now!

Many hugs to you, teachers, and thanks for all you do on this Valentine’s Day!

Joan