Momservation: “The first great gift we can bestow on others is a good example.” ~Thomas Morell
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Tired of giving gift cards? Money feels too impersonal? Too hard to figure out latest trends, interests, or sizes? Then you’ve come to the right place for Christmas shopping for that teenager in your life.
Choose from one (or all!) of the four gifts below and I guarantee your teen will be happier than a kid getting an iPhone6 for Christmas! (Okay, maybe I don’t guarantee that, but I bet it will be right up there with their favorite gifts.)
1. No judgment. Teens already feel like they’re under a microscope with snap judgments from their peers on everything from what they wear, how they do their hair or makeup, what they post on social media, who they hang out with, what they drive, and what they do in class. They don’t need nor want their parents’ two cents on top of it.
My 13 year-old daughter’s favorite words to me right now are “Stop” and “Don’t.” It is her way of warning me that she feels judged and for me to be back off.
Of course, I don’t see it that way at all. I hear myself passing on insight, perspective, or wisdom from life experience. When I try to explain myself—“I just thought you’d want to know…” or “I was just making an observation…” she will swiftly point out that from her perspective it still feels like a judgment.
So this Christmas I will be giving my daughter the gift of biting my tongue. It may bleed from trying not to lambast the need for incessant selfies, harping on never ending Snap Chats, clicking my tongue at friends’ inappropriate Instagrams or Tweets, and refraining from commenting on all manners of teenage behavior.
These teen years are my children’s road to travel not mine. Time to stop being a backseat driver.
2. Trust. Teens need learning experiences, both good and bad to grow. They need opportunities to confront difficult choices or situations; to learn from mistakes and capitalize on successes. Part of growing up is wanting to be trusted.
In this age of helicopter parenting, we as parents have become accustomed to shielding our children from any little hurt, disappointment, failure, or mis-step. What we’ve come to see as protecting our kids, our teens see as depriving them of experiences and not trusting they will make good decisions.
When I find myself wavering over letting my teens do something that makes me uncomfortable or nervous my daughter will remind me, “Mom, you need to just trust that I’ll make the right choices,” or my 15 year-old son will sigh, “Mom, trust me, I’ll be fine!”
(Trusting my son’s abilities this summer)
So this Christmas I will be trusting the decade and a half I have put in to building a strong moral foundation for my children and landing my helicopter. It will be a white-knuckle year, but I’m giving them my trust.
3. Respect. The teen years are a time of great growth and maturity. It’s a time when teens fight to create an identity, try to discover who they are, or seek validation for who they’re trying to be. They’re becoming individuals with their own set of abilities, qualities and achievements and they’re just looking for a little respect for who they’ve become.
One of the difficulties for teens as they mature toward adulthood is they are still seen as kids. I’m definitely guilty of this. Although I’m a big believer in giving respect if you want respect, I still catch myself talking down to the kids who now tower over me.
It’s important to remember that these “babies” of ours are taking on increased adult responsibilities, carrying adult-sized academic and extracurricular workloads, and many times have cars, jobs, and payments like adults. We can become frustrated with their attitude, but they can also be frustrated with our lack of respect for their individuality.
If you’re giving respect to your teen this Christmas, make sure they understand it is not a one-way street. It is a gift that should be re-gifted.
4. Time. Modern teens have very little time to themselves. Between the demands of school (and getting into a good college), extra-curricular activities (sports, music, sciences, and arts), and other expectations (chores, jobs, graduation requirement community service) one of the best things you can give a teen is time.
Time to sleep in. Time to veg on their phones. Time to be with their friends. Time to stay up late. Time to be silly. Time to indulge a passion. Time with no strings attached. Unstructured time. Play time. Down time. Me time. And one more very important one—your time.
Get up from your computer or put down your own phone to take the time to reach out to your room-bound or phone-obsessed teen and do something together. Go mountain biking together. Go shopping together. Go to the movies together. Go to a concert together. Go on a day hike together. Cook together. Do sports together. Play together. Laugh together. Do anything together.
If you have a teenager you have five years or less to spend with these kids before they most likely fly the coop. So enjoy them now before the distancing of living their own lives fills you with regret for lost opportunities.
There is no better Christmas gift than time with those you love.