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Take cues from the senses for heartfelt Valentine's Day

Priscilla J. Dunstan
Priscilla J. Dunstan

Valentine's Day is about showing love and appreciation to those special few you hold close to your heart but often we are unsure of how exactly to do this.

We all have in our memory many failed past expressions from mistaken presents, miscommunicated words or dinners resulting in unmet expectations. In families that celebrate Valentine's Day, correctly understanding what gift or gesture is correct for your partner or your child is an especially important hurdle to overcome. But by catering to your loved ones' dominant sense, you're more likely to express yourself in a way that is directly and correctly communicated.


Tactile partners like doing and fixing things — being active. So planning a hike or picnic, or buying them something for their bicycle or yoga class and then following up with lots of physical affection will make them very happy.

Visual partners love beautifully designed presents or cards. Be sure to make an effort to dress nicely in something they would like or go out to dinner in a beautifully decorated restaurant, an art gallery or visit a beautiful view. Comment in detail on how nice their outfit is, too.

Auditory partners love music! Give them tickets to their favorite band or fill their iPod with their favorite music and listen, listen, listen! Go to dinner in a place where you can talk easily, comment on previous conversations and things they have said before, and show them that you do listen and care about what they have to say.

Taste/smell partners are sensitive and sentimental so be sure they are aware how much you like their gift. Or go out to the place where you first met, wearing the same outfit you wore or something similar. A handmade gift or something else very personal will go over will.


For children, follow similar lines. The tactile child will love going out and doing something together. Make up new traditions like a Valentine's Day soccer match, or make a Valentine's Day living room fort. Let your child help you as you make dinner and show them endless amounts of hugs and cuddles.

Visual children will love beautifully colored little presents. They probably will make you a hand- drawn card so really talk about the use of color and other details. Make a special effort with setting the dinner table, and have the whole family dress nicely or go somewhere beautiful.

Auditory children will want to talk you through their Valentine's Day card or present. As with auditory adults, the best present you can give auditory children is their knowing that you remembered and heard what they had to say. Ask their advice, recall other conversations, and let them pick the background music at dinner then let them sing along! Karaoke!

Taste/smell children will want Valentine's Day to be a love fest! They will want to wish everyone they care about a lovely day. They will put a lot of feeling into their card, including the one made for their teddy bear. They will want to help with everything that day since how everyone else is feeling is reflected in their sense of self.

By being aware of and catering to your child and partner's dominant sense, you can have a Valentine's Day that meets all your expectations, and instead of being a day that is dreaded — multiple cupcakes baked, mad-dash card exchanges at school, last-minute restaurant and flower reservations — it becomes something that everyone looks upon with fond memories and a chance to really appreciate those they love.

Priscilla J. Dunstan is a child and parenting behavior expert and consultant and the author of Child Sense. Learn more about Priscilla and her parenting discoveries at © McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.