10 Ways I’m Making Christmas Merry and Bright for My Teenagers
No, it’s not a bucket of cash — but it’s rich in joy nonetheless
Today was just about the busiest day in the history of time. I got up at 7am to pray and meditate. (Yeah, I’m one of those nut jobs. Don’t judge.)
I jumped online to get some information to my book formatter before hopping on Zoom to teach class.
The moment class ended I ran to my husband’s office to get my phone which I’d left in his car the night before.
I then high tailed across town to Trader Joe’s, took a phone call from a sponsee on speaker, power walked with my hubby and hit my weekly 12 step meeting.
Before I knew it, it was 8:30PM and I still had more writing and marketing to do, but I first wanted to wrap up a few gifts for Advent for my teenagers — a tradition I’ve been serving up since they were toddlers.
I was more tired than Santa doing his annual flight round the globe, but I dragged out the wrapping paper box from under my bed and put the finishing touches on a few gifts. I wrote a quick poem on a sticky note and popped it into a rickety advent house for them to do a scavenger hunt for later that evening. This is the poem they’d find when they opened tiny door: “It’s Day #2… Do I Love You? A Smidge… Look for Your Treasures Somewhere Near the Fridge!”
I didn’t re-enact this circus of silly gifts and cheesy poetry tonight because I am some Super Saint of a mama. I did it because despite sometimes feeling like I can’t do anything right, I knew just the act of sitting in the living room and opening something shiny, no matter how small, would bring out the kid in them. And it did.
Teenagers: Big on the Outside, Kids on the Inside
It’s easy to forget with the attitude and ungratefulness that can come with the teenage territory that these tall, lanky humans are still undeveloped souls who long for the safety of being small again.
And while this doesn’t mean I baby them, I do find ways to remind them it’s okay to feel young and vulnerable sometimes. Christmas is the perfect time to do this, so here is what has made all the difference round these parts.
10 Ways to Bring out the Kid in Your Teen this Christmas
- Play Music: Sure, my teens might roll their eyes at their six foot mother lip synching to Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas Is You” in our old dilapidated kitchen, but I see them smiling under their braces. If nothing else, it makes me smile, and that keeps tension low.
- Buy a Few Holiday Treats: Yes, chocolate coins do make my teenagers smile. Indeed, Reeses Peanut Butter Bells are the secret to a spontaneous “Thank you!” and, if I’m lucky, a hug.
- Take Them For a Car Ride to See Lights: Corona has killed a lot of social activities, so I plan on taking advantage of my stir crazy kids and asking them if they want to go in the car with me to see some decorations. (They might actually say yes, especially if I commit to #4:)
- Don’t Nag: If my teens are willing to ride around the block with me, I’m going to make a point of not bringing up sensitive subjects. It’s okay just to talk about nothing, or let them lead. Often just listening is the best thing I can do for them.
- Buy Them a Christmas Card: I’ve decided to leave a Christmas card on their messy unmade bed — and you can, too. Date it. Tell them how proud of them you are. Remind them that they are the best gift you ever got. Tell them that you want to be present for them this season… that you want to be a safe space. And thank them for just being awesome. (I can guarantee that even your sulkiest child will keep that card tucked away and look at it from time to time.)
- Ask Fun Questions: Ask them what they would want from Santa if he could make their lives complete. Listen to their dreams. Don’t interrupt them. If they tell you they want to be video game designers on Mars, ask how you can support them in accomplishing this and what kind of helmet you need to purchase to visit them there in the future. Your encouragement is far more valuable than a fancy price tag.
- Light Candles: One of my favorite new Facebook friends talks about lighting candles at her dinner table each night. It sets a cozy, inviting tone. Even plain Mac N Cheese feels fancier and subconsciously sends the message that our teens are valuable and worth sitting down to a meal with.
8. Buy Silly Advent Gifts: Yes, I do give my kids a gift every night. Sometimes it’s a book from the $10 or Less Bookstore, and other times it’s just a bag of chips or a pack of gum from the 99 Cents store. It’s not the cost that counts. It’s the fun of opening something and feeling special. With all the unknowns and disappointment of Covid, this is a fun tradition that has really held up my kids’ spirits this season.
9. Watch a Holiday Movie: I have not yet done this, but it’s something I plan on doing sooner than later. It’s cozy. It’s relaxing. And it’s something we can all do together. Great snacks are a bonus. (And no phones! I plan on turning mine off and just staying present.) My big goal? To not fall asleep. We’ll see if that happens. It might take a Christmas miracle.)
10. Catch Them Being Good: It’s so easy to focus on the negative.
What if you tried to look at what was going right with your teenager instead of what was going wrong?
I know… raising teens isn’t easy. But I have also seen my relationship improve over time when I consistently point out what they are doing well at. Kind words are as powerful as cold hard cash when it comes to our teens. Let’s not be Scrooge like and dole them out liberally!
They Won’t Be Teenagers Forever
Yes, the teenage years are rough.
This season I am trying to remember they are like Christmas trees and won’t last forever — they can burn up easily if we’re not careful. So what if we tended to them with gentleness? What if our kind words lit them up?
What if our silent presents of acceptance and unconditional love surrounded their growing branches?
What if this year the riches we had in our homes did not come from gifts but were words of peace, harmony and love? Our teens might not be babies anymore, but that just might make this one magical Christmas.
I’m a published TV, blog, magazine and book writer who also coaches moms and grandmoms to write books rooted in wisdom, spirituality and humor.
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