If you’re like most parents, this time of year is a hectic one. We’re thinking about what to buy our kids for the holidays, we’re searching for the best deals. We’re exasperated at how much some companies are charging for shipping, and we’re digging through closets hunting for all those gift bags we know we saved from last year.
And as our teens grow older and move further away from the toys and bicycles stage of childhood, we grapple with finding gifts for them that are meaningful. Of course, that’s not to say we completely stop with fun and frivolous gifts, but at this point in their lives, we tend to get more practical. We can’t help but worry about our teens and young adults, especially the ones who are struggling. We simply want to help.
Perhaps this year, as we prepare for the holidays, we can also decide that we’re going to give our kids a few gifts that don’t require a credit card, shipping, or wrapping.
Five loving holiday gifts
Once our kids reach middle school, they are already well aware of how super competitive life is today. The pressures to perform and excel in school and in their extracurricular activities can be overwhelming. The entire college admissions process is a marathon of comparison. Kids are constantly reminded of how their “stats” compare to those around them, and social media often seems like a slideshow of people who are living lives better than theirs.
It’s so important that we talk to our kids about accepting and embracing their unique gifts and talents. Let’s remind them that there will always be others who are smarter, faster, or more talented at certain skills than they are — but that concentrating on and nurturing what they do well is what matters. Champion their abilities without comparing them to anyone else.
2. A constant safe space
Parenting teens is a tough job and one that can easily lead to frustration and worry. When our kids see that they cause us stress, or they think that speaking honestly with us will make us angry, they are less likely to confide in us and show their true selves. It’s easy to assume that they know we love them unconditionally.
But sitting down and reassuring them that there’s nothing that they can do that will cause us to withhold our love or close our doors to them is reassurance they all need to hear. There is nothing more important than our kids’ mental and emotional health. Which leads to…
3. Assistance with finding healthy stress-relief
As we all know, stress is a normal part of life, but kids today have their fair share of challenges. As parents, we can help them find healthy ways to deal with stress. Perhaps this is something you can even do together — like exercise, art, mindfulness, cooking, or simply watching a comedy series with one another.
Keep offering suggestions and exposing your kids to different methods of healthy stress relief until something clicks with them. In their toolbox, our kids should have a panoply of healthy strategies to deal with stress.
It’s understandable that teens and young adults today sometimes feel hopeless. They, like us, are constantly taking in news about alarming issues — covid topping the list — but also climate crisis, divisiveness, and racial, gender, and economic injustice. It saddened me recently to listen to several college students talking about their lack of hope for the future.
I think it’s imperative to remind our kids that their generation will come up with answers for so many of our current problems. With our perspective and positivity, we can help them envision solutions and encourage them to be a part of those solutions.
Who remembers the “You complete me” scene in the movie Jerry Maguire? It seemed so romantic at the time, and I’m sure has caused many people since then to wish they’d hear the same words from a partner. However sweet it may have sounded, it’s not a concept that I want our kids to embrace. I would like my own children to know that they are whole and entirely complete with or without a romantic relationship or partner.
We should be encouraging them, particularly our daughters, to aspire to the goal of self-love, and to acknowledge that they are complete people in and of themselves. Let’s help them understand that a partner compliments them, rather than completes them. Without self-love, all other love is diminished.
As Fred Rogers said, “One of the most important gifts a parent can give a child is the gift of accepting that child’s uniqueness.” This holiday season, each one of our unique children deserves the gifts of spoken acceptance, hope, emotional safety, and unconditional love.
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