Creative Ways to Love Your Teens for the 12 Days of Christmas
- Candice Lucey
- 2019 11 Oct
Christmas is the “Giving Season,” and really, any season is great to teach our kids how to give. Teenagers, however, become bored with our preaching and roll their eyes. Being a teenager was never harder than it is today. As parents, we can get mad at their drama and rebellion or we can stop preaching and fill them up. We can behave the way we always tell them to act.
Beyond the traditional 'open your gifts on Christmas Day' fun, there are 12 days from Christmas onward that have a rich historical significance in teaching the basic tenets of the church. While maybe not as popular as Advent and Christmas, these 12 days (from Christmas Day into January) are an opportunity to celebrate.
Here are 12 ideas for loving your teens during the 12 days of Christmas:
1. One-Minute Prayer
Your kid might go “aw, mom—really?” Christian parents typically devote at least one minute daily to pray for their children, all at once or throughout the day (I know I do). But do their children know it?
What a gift to your child for her to hear you bringing her emotional, mental, spiritual, and physical security to God. When she is grown up and far from home, facing difficult choices and painful situations, perhaps this moment will come to mind, even if she’s rolling her eyes right now.
Consider your “one-minute prayer” as an investment in a spiritual trust fund. This prayer is also a reminder to commit our children, in this season and always, to God’s loving authority and power.
2. Cookie Surprise
Bake your child’s favorite Christmas treats and leave them in his room to find after school. Who doesn’t enjoy a sweet surprise? Even minor issues seem enormous to a thirteen-year-old, yet our teens won’t necessarily share their needs with mom and dad after school.
Hugging isn’t cool. A warm cookie is like a hug; a way of saying “you are loved and thought of throughout the day.”
Might I suggest that you let your teen discover the cookie privately and experience a secret sense of joy, perhaps a smile, without being interrupted or watched? Let him savor your thoughtfulness without feeling self-conscious.
Pray for patience, say nothing, and wait to see if God will prompt your teen to give you a hug. If not, try to remember that love does not ask for anything in return; not even a “thank you.”
3. Christmas Shorts
Watch two short Christmas shows from your own childhood, then two your teen really loved as a kid (let him pick, even if you don’t like his choices). Show him a silly side in you. Parenting is serious business and being a teenager is hard: take a break.
God wired you both to experience joy in the big and small blessings alike, including a bowl of popcorn and steaming mugs of hot chocolate topped with marshmallows and whipped cream. An hour of screen time might seem like wasted time, but it won’t be wasted if both of you have switched off your phones and are engaged in one another.
Watch the expression on your teenager’s face once in a while. Savor your proximity on the sofa. Relax and giggle together.
4. Story Time
Rewrite a Christmas story together, turning it into the style your teen likes best: action, romance, or comedy. Some kids like to write, and others hate it. If your child is wary of writing, wield the pen and do the work, but encourage his imagination to bubble over.
The Father’s imagination is unfathomable. With only words He brought plants and planets into being. Creativity is part of His makeup, and you are both made in God’s image. Resist the urge to edit your child’s story-telling or to take control; go with the flow.
Praise, give credit, and build on the sheer randomness that follows. The end result might not make much sense, or you could give creative birth to a bestseller, but the point is to share the experience. Make it a Mad Lib if that helps: replace verbs, nouns, and adjectives with suggestions from your teen, then fill in the blanks of a story and read it out loud with new words in place of originals.
Don’t expect literary greatness, just uproarious laughter. For example, ‘Twas the night before Christmas when all through the house” could become ‘Twas the garbage day after Thanksgiving when all through the bus stop.” You get the idea.
5. $5 Challenge
Take your teen to the thrift store and give each of you a budget of $5 to find the wackiest, tackiest item possible. A goofy mug; a loud t-shirt: select anything awful enough to be funny.
It’s up to you whether the gift is a secret for the other person’s stocking or if you plan to share your finds over cappuccinos and cookies at the coffee shop, musing over whom to delight with your crazy finds.
Go ahead and laugh; God had a sense of humor. He made us after all.
6. Selfie Session
My daughter loves two things about her phone: staying in touch with friends and taking selfies. Take 6 selfies together with props like stick-on mustaches, wigs, fake glasses, and more. If you prefer, use various apps to distort features and add digital props.
With so much technology at their disposal, what do teenagers do? They take pictures of themselves and change them to look like humans with cat faces. A psychologist could write essays about this phenomena, but don’t analyze; just have fun.
7. Frosted Art
Decorate cookies together using sprinkles, dried fruit, and colored frosting. Bulk stores allow you to buy a little of everything to keep the cost down. Keep at least one cookie each aside to give to each other. Maybe even save some as presents for the neighbors.
While the purpose of these 12 ideas is finding ways of showing love to our teens, they experience the love of Christ more fully by loving others. Some teens need little encouragement to spread joy to their neighbors or clerks at their local grocery store; others want some prompting.
Maybe your teenager will sigh dramatically, but encourage him to knock on the next-door-neighbor’s door and see what happens. Giving gifts to others is a reflection of Christ’s generosity to us and while your teen might not say so, following Jesus’ example feels good.
8. Trivia Night
Create a quiz with true-or-false, trivia, and/or map-related questions all relating back to your own childhood.
My mother’s favorite Christmas ornament was orange and green striped to resemble an ugly 70s sweater—true or false?
We drove around looking at Christmas lights in Vancouver; locate Vancouver on this blank map outline.
Alternate serious history with random facts; tap into your silliest self and your strangest memories. Many of us are fascinated about where our parents came from. Stories of Christmases past often facilitate those discussions, while scripture takes us back through our heritage as children of the one true God.
9. Gratitude Jar
Give your teen a jar or box filled with notes describing positive features of his character and happy memories, even funny ones. Remember the time your child said that embarrassing thing out-loud at the grocery store? Maybe he scored a touchdown one season and did a memorable dance on the field.
Perhaps you haven’t told your teenager lately how much you like his laugh or love her gentle way with animals. Reading your notes is probably a private experience for your teen, like Day 2. Tears might flow and very few kids over 12 want their parents to see them cry, or watch their parents cry for that matter.
Start planning Day 9 well in advance so you can give it some thought your child will recognize and appreciate.
10. Theme Day
You’ve heard of Christmas in July—how about July at Christmas? In fact, select any theme (Garden Tea Party, Ugly Sweater Day, Pie Day, Disco Day) and create an event around it.
For July at Christmas, clear some floor space and spread out a picnic blanket. Set up the channel on YouTube.com that shows relaxing summer images: a tropical beach, waves gently rolling into sand, accompanied by the relaxing “shhhh” of water and distant bird call. Set up a summertime feast: fried chicken, little sandwiches with the crusts cut off, iced tea, lemonade, and fruit. Buy a reed diffuser featuring coconut and vanilla (sunscreen and ice cream).
Jesus was born of a virgin; God caused Elizabeth, Mary’s cousin, to become pregnant with her son John when she was barren—transplanting summer to winter is easy for Him.
11. Scavenger Hunt
This will take some time, but you’ve had 10 days or more to plan. Take photos of landmarks around your town or your house, but select odd angles with weird lighting and only capture a portion of the place or monument.
For example, choose a tall clock in the town square photographed from directly below, only a tiny corner of it. Pick out a room in the house, turn out the lights, and lie on the floor, then snap a shot of the ceiling and an edge of a light fixture.
Number the clues so they lead to a grand finale: a gift or event which you can leave in that last spot safe from animals or foot traffic, like a favorite food in a cooler under a blanket in the front hall closet, or a gift-wrapped present dropped off at a special location by a helper awaiting your text. Lead your teen to a party or a beloved aunt just arrived (surprise!) from out of town.
12. 6 and 6
Ask your teen to choose 12 of something: 12 nail polishes, 12 chocolate bars, 12 bars of really nice soap, or 12 special artists’ pencils. Now, let your teen keep 6 and ask her to give the other 6 to one or more people who would be blessed by them.
What I like about 6 and 6 is that your teen is able to select the gifts, but also has something to give away. One part of how we love our children is that we demonstrate how Christ (the selfless giver) loves them and the people around them. We are encouraged to model how He has equipped us to love others by the power of His Holy Spirit.
Certain teens are already givers. Many, however, are trapped in a world of self-involvement. Activating the giver inside your child has the potential to set her free from that snare. Who knows—you might start something during the Christmas season that a teenager wants to continue doing throughout the year without your prompting: giving as Christ gave, not just during a holiday, but always.
Candice Lucey is a disciple of Christ and a writer. She lives in beautiful British Columbia, Canada, with her family. Catch her other writing at Wordwell.ca.
Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/omgimages
Candice Lucey lives with her husband and daughters in (mostly) tranquil Salmon Arm, BC, Canada. Here, she enjoys digging into God’s word when not working or taking part in ministry activities. Her prose and poetry have previously appeared in such publications as Purpose and Creation Illustrated, and her short plays were performed at Christmas by Sunday School students for several years. Catch up with Candice’s scriptural studies at her blog Wordwell.ca.