What is it about this time of year that causes us to feel a little more generous? We naturally think about helping families in need by providing Christmas presents or a meal, we visit soup kitchens, donate clothes, or drop food off at the local food pantry. Studies show we give more money and clothing to charity in December than any other time. But why? In the Gospel of John, we find a part of the Christmas story that doesn’t always make it into the nativity scene. Long before Mary and Joseph made it to Bethlehem. Long before there were choirs of angels visiting shepherd or wise men making their way from the East, Christmas began with a single decision made on our behalf. A decision God made to give. That simple but monumental decision has shaped this season ever since. And when we begin to understand all God has given to us, we can’t help but bring that tradition that began with His generosity into our present.
By Sarah Anderson
Have you ever noticed that when it comes to our children—no matter what their age—the things we expect our children to enjoy and thank us for the most are usually the very things that go unnoticed or unappreciated? I’ve started noticing it in my own preschool aged kids that when I pull out my best parenting tricks, my best memory-making ideas, it is sometimes met with them being bored, not impressed, and lacking gratitude.
The problem I face as a parent, and the problem all of us face to one degree or another, is what pastor Andy Stanley refers to as the tendency to raise experientially rich kids, but instead of raising relationally rich ones. In other words, in our effort to want to give our kids everything we create the chance for them to have some pretty amazing experiences but often neglect actually connecting with them.
This becomes all the more complicated as our children become teenagers and appear to want neither experiences nor relationships with us.
It’s hard not to take personally. But I’ve found that what students express as “wants” or “don’t wants” often doesn’t reflect their true desires. While they appear indifferent, that isn’t always the case. Our students, regardless of their age, temperament or wiring, are needing purposeful and committed relationships—with us. Strong relationships with their parents now will lay the groundwork for strong relationships in the future.
They need to know—though they aren’t often willing to ask us directly—that we like them and we want to hang out with them. Maybe they aren’t looking for some big expensive vacation or experience. Maybe they don’t need anything that dramatic—just the chance for us to be with them and a chance to make a connection.
Maybe your student moving out of the house feels like it is a long way off. It could be several years away, or it could be in a matter of months. Try thinking about their time with you in terms of the number of holidays you have while they still live in your house. Your teenager maybe four years from moving out, but that means you only have four Christmases left.
“When you know how much time you have left, you tend to do more with the time you have now.”
Take some time this holiday season to sit down with your student and together come up with a tradition you can repeat for the Christmas seasons you have left. It doesn’t have to be anything big, expensive or super time-consuming. But it does have to be something your teenager wants to do—and something that gives you the chance to have shared experience together and further your relationship as well.