Many people tend to think that Valentine’s Day is relevant only for the red rose and candlelit dinner crowd. But it’s not just about cupids, flowers, and chocolates. This holiday isn’t just for people in romantic relationships. 

Valentine’s Day can be far more inclusive than that. And it can still be quite meaningful even if you take a simpler approach to the day.

Whether you are someone who cares for individuals with intellectual or developmental disabilities or you are someone who receives care, Valentine’s Day can be a good time to show the most important people in your life that you care for them. Show that you appreciate what they bring to your world or how they make your life better by just being there for you. Perhaps that person’s presence in your life—whether as caregiver or individual with a developmental disability—makes your life more meaningful.

Showing you care for people doesn’t have to be romantic. But it can involve a high degree of emotional openness. Yet, many of us aren’t used to telling people what they mean to us. We may feel squeamish talking about feelings. But it doesn’t have to feel that way. 

This year, consider giving a Valentine’s Day card to those who are important in your life. Whether you hand deliver the card or use snail mail, it will stand out in this age of texting and email. If you can’t think of what to write, you can get ideas from Mr. Rogers, who wasn’t afraid to say what he felt.

Being and feeling special

Americans don’t talk much about feelings. We may get uncomfortable venturing into the realm of emotions. But talking about feelings is important talk. “Knowing that our feelings are natural and normal for all of us can make it easier for us to share them with one another,” wrote the TV host, musician, creator, producer, and minister, Fred Rogers, in his book, “The World According to Mister Rogers.” He was known for saying, “I like you just the way you are.”

This is a radical message. How often does someone say something like this to you? When we’re growing up, often the message from parents and other family members is that we are somehow not enough. But don’t blame them. They are just impatient for us to learn things and grow up.

Whose presence do we take for granted?

You may draw some inspiration from the teachings of Mr. Rogers in this song he sang, “It’s You I Like.” And here’s an exercise adapted from Mr. Rogers that may help you access the deep well of appreciation you have for those who have cared for you in all sorts of ways. Ask yourself:

  1. Who in your life has helped you grow? Who has helped you love the good that grows within you?
  2. Let’s just take 10 seconds to think of those people who have loved us and wanted what is best for us in life. This would be those who have encouraged us to become who we are in life.
  3. No matter where they are, whether here or in heaven, imagine how pleased those people must be to know that you thought of them right now.

Cherishing the people in your life and letting them know what you feel can be a powerful way to show that feelings can be mentioned and managed. It can be a powerful mental and emotional exercise.

Ways to say, “I  you”

In a letter responding to a Valentine’s Day card, Mr. Rogers noted that there are many ways of saying, “I love you.” Here are some things you can tell those important people in your life.

  • I thank you for all the good that you do.
  • I appreciate when you [insert action   ]
  • I like you just for being you.
  • Thank you for always being there for me.

At the end of every episode of his TV show, “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood,” Mr. Rogers reminded his viewers of what they meant to him. “You’ve made this day a special day by just your being you,” he would say. “There’s no person in the whole world like you, and I like you just the way you are.”

And here’s wishing all of our staff, caregivers, and the individuals we serve a wonderful Valentine’s Day. You always make each day a special day, by just your being you!