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Making This Christmas Better Than the Year Before

Merry Christmas from Parenting Today's Teens“But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; He is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find the baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manager.’  Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom His favor rests.’” ~ Luke 2:10-14

Have you ever wanted to have that Norman Rockwell kind of Christmas?  The type of holiday where the relatives visit with smiles and hugs, the kids are pleasant and happy, the Christmas dinner looks like something from a gourmet magazine and everywhere you look there is peace and harmony?

Maybe you desire a perfect “Christmas card” holiday because your Christmases resemble something more like the painting The Scream.  Emotions run high as you try to mend fences with the family, cope with a struggling teenager, purchase gifts in time and get through Christmas without killing anyone.  But let’s face it—no one’s holidays are perfect.  Just because it’s the twelfth month on the calendar doesn’t mean that all the problems of the year melt away like the snow.  But while it’s not possible to have a picture-perfect Christmas, it is possible to make this season better than the last.

Start A Tradition

What are the Christmas traditions in your family?  If you can’t think of anything other than Aunt Ethel yelling at Uncle Joe, or you burning the Christmas dinner, then it’s time to start some brand new traditions.  They don’t have to be elaborate or costly.  My family and I started a tradition of working on a puzzle together during the holidays (of course, I’m the one that always has to finish it).  Sure, it’s a little bit nerdy, but it has become a cherished custom that brings us all together each year.

Consider starting a tradition of cutting down the family Christmas tree, walking through the neighborhood to look at Christmas lights or throwing a holiday party for your kid’s friends and their parents.  Whatever you choose to do, make sure it involves the entire family and allows you to relax, have fun and enjoy being together.

Write a Christmas Blessing

The Christmas season is an opportunity to lay aside the grudges of the past year and embrace peace.  If you want to make this Christmas worth remembering, take a break from the shopping and decorating to write out a blessing for everyone in your family.  It’s a meaningful gesture I learned from my friend John Trent.  Start by writing three paragraphs about someone in the family, whether it’s a spouse, a child or even your extended family.  The first paragraph should focus on a character quality that you admire.  You could say, “Son, I noticed how easily you make friends, and it is amazing to see.  You truly have a gift for connecting with people.

The second paragraph should be about a trial that the person is dealing with currently, or has struggled through.  An example would be, “Honey, I know that you have been dealing with some mean girls at school, and I want to say how proud I am of how you’re dealing with them.  It’s been a struggle, but this year I’ve seen you really mature and grow in spite of cruel comments.”

The third and final paragraph should include your prayer for that person’s future.  Let them know what you’re asking God to do for them in the coming year.  You could write, “My prayer for you this year is that you would experience God’s love in whole new way, that you would stay away from things that could hurt you, and that you would discover the strength of God in your life!”

Then, at dinner one night, hand your Christmas blessing to each person and see if it doesn’t strengthen your relationships this season.

Find the Joy

I know Christmas can be a difficult season for many people.  Maybe it brings up painful memories.  Or perhaps the season is already so far removed from “good” that you can’t imagine it any different.  I may not know the exact problems you face this holiday, but I can tell you that it’s still possible to rejoice this Christmas.  Even though it is hard, strive to find the joy in your circumstances.  Be thankful for the family God has given you.  Find happiness in the love of God and the birth of His Son.  Discover peace in knowing that God has brought you to the end of another year all in one piece.

Our attitude will make the difference between experiencing a wonderful Christmas and dragging ourselves through another miserable holiday.  So reflect on all the good in your life this holiday, and stop dwelling on the negative.

Focus on the Experience

I think we can all agree that Christmas gifts receive a little more attention than they really deserve.  Last year alone, Americans spent $563 billion dollars during the holidays.  All this materialism is definitely getting out of control!  But Christmas is not about the presents; it’s about living in the present.  It’s all about enjoying the experience of the season.

I can’t remember what I got for Christmas when I was a kid.  But I can relate in detail all the wonderful memories and experiences I had growing up with my family.  Those are the things we remember and take with us.  Just look at the gift God gave us.  It wasn’t anything material.  It was the person of Jesus Christ, who now offers us a meaningful relationship with Him and the Father.

I’m not saying we should throw the presents out the window, but I am saying that great Christmases aren’t about the gifts under the tree.  Instead, it’s about time together.  Maybe you’ll choose to sit around the fire, drink hot chocolate and share stories.  You’ll take a trip to the grandparents, and sled down the nearby hill.  This year, look to experience the season with your kids, not with toys or money but with memories that last a lifetime.

End the Year Well

It’s a common saying, but it’s so true: “It’s not how you start that matters—It’s how you finish.”  This year may have started off poorly.  But now you have an opportunity to end the year on a high note.  So make the time count.  Offer forgiveness to that child who has been breaking your heart this year.  Seek peace with the family member that has hurt you.  Defuse the problems in your home instead of escalating them.  Overlook offenses in the spirit of Christmas.  End the year on a better footing than you started.  It will make for a happier, more peaceful Christmas, and may even carry you into the next year!

I understand that the Christmas season is a chaotic time full of stress and anxiety and maybe a few family issues, as well.  But it doesn’t have to ruin our celebration.  You can make this a better holiday than years past.  It will take some effort, but the result is a lasting memory of a peaceful, loving and happy Christmas with your family.

From all of us here at Parenting Today’s Teens, wishing you and yours a Merry Christmas!

 

A special message from Mark

I do hope and pray that this Christmas season is a wonderful time of celebration and reflection for you and your family.  It’s a special time for all of us at Parenting Today’s Teens, and the only time that we ask folks to partner with us financially to help support our work with teens and families.  If these newsletters, or any of the Parenting Today’s Teens resources have been beneficial to you, would you consider a gift to our ministry in your year-end giving?  You can do so by clicking here.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Mark Gregston is an author, speaker, radio host, and the founder and director of Heartlight, located in Hallsville, Texas.  For more information and helpful resources for moms and dads, check out our website.  It’s filled with ideas and tools to help you become a more effective parent.  Go to www.heartlightministries.org.  Or read other helpful articles by Mark, at www.markgregston.com.  You can also call Heartlight directly at (903) 668-2173.  Hear the Parenting Today’s Teens broadcast on a radio station near you, or download the podcast at www.parentingtodaysteens.org.


Pass the Blessing

Dad's Blessing“And [Jesus] took the children in His arms, placed His hands on them and blessed them.”  Mark 10:16

The word “blessing” is a rather archaic word.  Other than a courteous response to a sneeze, “blessing” someone has really fallen out of favor.  But if we go back to its original meaning, we find that the word simply means, “to show favor.”  It’s an intentional way to give someone our stamp of approval, to validate their uniqueness and their place in your life.  Of course, blessing a child means more than saying, “I love you” (though that may be a part of it).  It’s about taking active steps to display your support of and appreciation for your child.  As parents, we spend a lot of time correcting and pointing out negative behaviors in our kids, but do we spend an equal amount of time focusing on the positives?

Let me give you five ways you can literally “bless” your teenager.  And it has nothing to do with your child deserving or earning your favor.  It’s all about looking past their mistakes and behaviors to say “You’re my son” or “You’re my daughter” and “I value you.”  These five methods of blessing come from my good friend, John Trent.  And putting them into action can bring restoration to broken relationships, or strengthen a healthy connection with your teen.

Touch

In Mark, chapter 10, the residents of a small town gathered together and brought all the students from a local school over to Jesus.  The disciples thought it was a waste of time for Jesus to meet with kids, but Jesus disagreed.  He invited each child with open arms, placed His hands on them, and blessed them.  In that example, we learn that first way to properly “bless” our kids is to use appropriate and meaningful touch.  It could be a hug, a warm hand on the shoulder, a high-five, a fist bump, a kiss on the forehead, anything that is appropriate and conveys love.  I realize that many parents would like to hug their kids more, but as they get older they often get harder to pin down!  But be ready and willingly to offer a loving touch when your kids do come to you for comfort—because they will.  There was a mom whose son was very affectionate growing up, and would run up and hug his mom almost everyday.  But as he got older, embracing mom was most definitely not cool, and fodder for jokes and ridicule, so he stopped—almost.  This grateful mother confided in me that occasionally, her son would hug her at night, after everyone else had gone to bed when no one could see.

Don’t force meaningful touch, but do bless your kids whenever you get a chance and let them know through handshakes, high-fives, or hugs that you care about them.

Words

We might love our teen, but in the craziness and busyness of life, we can forget to actually verbalize that sentiment.  Actions can portray a blessing, but our words hit closer to home.  You know that your spouse or children love you, but isn’t it nice to hear those three little words?  It’s no different with teenagers.  They need to hear words of affirmation and blessing from you.  When they achieve something great, let them hear your praise.  When they mess up, let them know that you still love them.  The poet Emily Dickinson wrote, “I know nothing in the world that has as much power as a word.”

Mom and dad, there’s a lot of power in your words.  An encouragement and a blessing at just the right moment can impact your child in so many positive ways.  So take every opportunity to verbalize your love to your teen.

Value

I love those recent television programs where people bring in their old junk from their attic and storage units, and experts tell them whether they are the owners of a piece of useless trash, or in possession of a fortune.  I’ve learned some valuable lessons from these shows.  One, never take a pawnbroker’s first offer.  And two, people who believe an object has worth attach a high value to it.

The same goes for a child.  If we believe that our child has significance, then we will attach a high value to them.  Will they be a little dinged-up and tarnished sometimes?  You bet!  But as parents, we can look past the dirt and scratches and see the treasure underneath.  Part of blessing our children means letting them know we think they are valuable—to the family, to us, and to the world.  Regardless of how many times they mess up, fall down, or stumble, our kids need to know that they hold their value with us, and we wouldn’t trade them for the world.  This means we don’t compare them to other kids, or wish we could trade them in for a better model (even though it may cross our mind sometimes!).  Let your teenager know that you are thankful that God put them in your life, and that you treasure them.

Future

Another way to bless your child is to endorse their future.  This involves acknowledging their gifts and abilities and pointing out all the opportunities before them.  “Honey, this painting is really good!  I can definitely see you becoming a artist or an art teacher some day.”  Or, “Wow, son, you really communicate well with young kids.  Have you ever thought about helping out in Sunday school, or volunteering at the Boys and Girls Club?”  I could parade countless stories about the difference a parent’s encouragement for the future made in the lives of successful young people.  But on the flip side, I know other stories of kids who spent years discouraged because their parents said, “You want to do what?  I don’t think you could do that.  Maybe you should try this other profession instead.”  Bless your child’s future and you bless your child.

Commitment

The final way to bless your teenager is by showing genuine commitment—putting aside your schedule, appointments and prerogatives for you child.  It’s a genuine sign of approval for a teenager to see an enthused parent in the stands of a swim meet, or see the computer turn off as they tell you a story from school, or to take them out to a dinner and a movie.  A commitment to show favor means a commitment of time.  We cannot bless our kids if we’re not spending time with them.

Hopefully, you’ve begun to see the idea of blessing your kids a little differently.  Rather than some outdated form of parental symbolism, bestowing favor is practical way to help a struggling teen, fix a broken relationship, or strengthen the bonds that are already in place.  Practice these five methods of blessing, and see if it doesn’t also bless you in the process.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Mark Gregston is an author, speaker, radio host, and the founder and director of Heartlight, located in Hallsville, Texas.  For more information and helpful resources for moms and dads, check out our website.  It’s filled with ideas and tools to help you become a more effective parent.  Go to www.heartlightministries.org.  Or read other helpful articles by Mark, at www.markgregston.com.  You can also call Heartlight directly at (903) 668-2173.  Hear the Parenting Today’s Teens broadcast on a radio station near you, or download the podcast at www.parentingtodaysteens.org.