Growing up I remember the anticipation of wanting to know what was in those beautifully adorned packages from the minute I saw them. I remember sneaking to what I thought might be a hiding place even before the presents were wrapped. I remember the times of family and knowing that everything was going to be alright. As I aged it became more about family than the gifts. Now I hear that I am the most difficult person to buy for. I may be a bit more indecisive than most, but still love getting good gifts.
With my time in youth ministry and counseling I have come across a few things that I think teens may want from us as parents. It is in no way an exhaustive list. It is a list that I believe might help us as we try to parent these aliens that changed into some other type of alien when they hit middle school.
Teens want to have boundaries. Regardless of what they might tell you parents, they want to know that there are some limits. They do not want to have the “cool” parents that do not care what they do. They want to know that you love them enough to put some limits on them.
Teens also crave correction. They desire to learn from right and wrong. Their world is a mess of gray. There is no right or wrong. We, as parents, must be able to communicate right and wrong based on absolutes. They need to know where truth is found.
Teens want to have a connection with you as parents. Long gone is the idea of teens not wanting a relationship with parents. In a world where they are searching for connection everywhere else, they really want to know that their connection with their parents is solid and trustworthy.
To give this gift of love: It may mean that we participate in things we do not want to do. Game nights, pumpkin carving nights, Christmas decorating, father/daughter dances, going to practice, shopping, or any activity you do not like but your teen does. You can also find something that you and your teen DO LIKE together. It does not have to be anything extravagant. Something that you enjoy doing.
To give the gift of joy: Teens want to know that you are proud of them. That means that you cheer the loudest on the sideline. No matter what they are doing. They want to know that you think that they are the best at what they are doing. They want to know that they are good enough to be your son/daughter. Let them hear you bragging about them to your friends. I promise, they will not become arrogant. They are living in a world that tells them that are not good enough constantly.
To give the gift of peace and patience: It may mean we have to make some tough choices. This may mean that we, as parents, love them through some tough/incorrect decisions. However, we are able to provide a landing spot for them when everything else is falling apart.
To give the gift of kindness: Teens want to know that when they have something to say their favorite adult wants to hear them. They want to know that their words matter. They want to know that even though you might not agree, you still are willing to drop what you’re doing and listen.
To give the gift of faithfulness: It may mean we make tough decisions to decide to be at every activity that they are involved in. Yes, maybe even missing work for it! Yes, even if we do not like the activity. Yes, it may even mean we have to spend money on it.
To give the gift of goodness and gentleness: Teens want to be a part of something that matters. They want to be challenged. They want to feed the homeless, clean someone else’s house, raise money for a project, or make a difference in our world.
To give the gift of self-control: Teens want to see us manage our own emotions as they are learning to manage and identify theirs. For me, this happened as I backed my car into my daughter’s car. My teen learned how to not manage her emotions. Teens are looking up to see how we respond when things do not always go as planned.
I encourage you this Christmas and this year to give these gifts. They are an investment that lasts for generations and will not be wasted.
Galatians 5:22-23 tells us about these characteristics that we should practice, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. The law is not against such things.”