Christmas is stressful finding just the right present for your teen or tween. While I love that my older kids send me links to online gifts I can purchase from my living room with coffee in hand, added stress creeps in……
- Is there something everyone else is getting that my kid is not?
- How can we afford what they want?
- All of this “stuff” is overwhelming!
Then, I have a conversation a teen and I realize beyond the labels, newest technology, and awesome things to share on Snapchat, there are 4 things they really need that they won’t put on their Christmas list.
Unconditional love. Most teens walking the halls of high school are searching for one thing—unconditional love and acceptance of who they are. They look for it in friends, a dating partner, and most of all from those they come home to. Though you, the parent, may know you love your kids unconditionally, our actions towards then during the teen years can show something opposite, especially when they mess up. More than showing love by buying them gifts, they simply want you to love them—all of them.
Support. Your kids need support when they mess up and also when their ideas are different from yours. Most teens are afraid to share their hopes and dreams with parents because they assume you’re going to tell them why their idea won’t work. Our kids have more opportunities that seemed unrealistic just a few years ago. Their generation needs ingenuity in a fast-past culture, but they also need experiences to succeed or fail in the safety of a supportive network. Whether it’s their post high school plans or following a passion that’s different from yours, give them support, and then support them if it doesn’t turn out the way they had hoped.
Accountability. Supporting your child’s dreams or impulsive ideas isn’t without the balance of accountability. In areas of morals, health, and safety kids and young adults need accountability and responsibility. This includes letting them be responsible for age appropriate decisions, with your guidance, but also allowing consequences in their life when those decisions don’t turn out the way they hoped.
Boundaries. Support and accountability ultimately manifests itself in boundaries which kids still need for their health and safety. There are certain decisions, behaviors, and circumstances in your teen’s life which you still need to be a part of no matter how big, sophisticated, or vocal they are that they’re old enough to handle something. Part of letting kids go—helping them fledge—requires building their capabilities to handle things when they are still under your care. They aren’t fully ready for certain situations and decisions before young adulthood.
A senior student of mine once told me “my parents let me party while they’re gone. They don’t care what I do. I wish they did.” It’s a honest insight into what our kids really need.
The most important gifts we give our kids cannot be bought. They are free, but take a heavy investment of time, energy, and engagement from us.
What do you think your tween, teen, or young adult needs from you this holiday season?