The Christmas season is here — with sparkling lights, glittering trees, and magical store displays. But as we look beyond the external, the research on adolescent development tells us something very important about what happens in teen’s internal worlds. It’s a season that shapes their lifelong identities about giving. What are you doing this year to help children and teens internalize the gift of giving?
Of course, many teens associate Christmas with being receivers of gifts. But according to studies in human development, it is the giving of gifts that reaps the biggest psychological rewards. Parents can help teens realize these rewards by teaching them how to give back during the Christmas season and throughout the year. There are many ways to give back, including through the excellent projects listed below.
To mark the season of giving, from November 29 through December 13, each time a teen makes a pledge to volunteer through GenerationOn, its partners at Hasbro will donate a toy to a child in need. As part of their Holiday Gift Campaign, GenerationOn encourages youths, parents, teachers and nonprofit organizations to explore its many online resources, including holiday service projects that help teens turn pledges into projects. Also through pledging, children become engaged in a youth community that brings the gift of giving into young people’s lives throughout the year. What better time than Christmas to get your teens to take a volunteer pledge!
The Family-to-Family project helps American families “share their bounty” with others who are impoverished. They will link your family with a family struggling to put food on the table. Once a month, they will ask you to either shop, pack and send a box of groceries to them, or make a donation that allows them to do it for you. The best way is to get teens involved in the shopping, in the process of giving! Encourage your child to reflect on what others would want and how he or she can empathize with families different from their own.
The nonprofit organization AnySoldier.com invites you and your teen to help make Christmas special for American soldiers stationed in harm’s way. You can choose to support any of the Armed Services, decide what you want to send, and get your teens involved in making cards and selecting gifts. Plan ahead so a soldier in Iraq, Afghanistan, or another place of global conflict can receive your family’s heartfelt gratitude for the job they do.
The National Coalition for the Homeless is a national network of people committed to ending homelessness. They work to meet the immediate needs of people who are homeless by providing education, advocacy, and grassroots organizing. Check their directories of national and local organizations where your family can help this Christmas or throughout the year.
Right now, the programs that put food on the table for America’s vulnerable children, seniors, and working families are in jeopardy. Your help is desperately needed to fill food banks and pantries throughout the country. Feeding America, a nonprofit network of member food banks, can help your family find convenient ways to give.
What values does your family hold about giving? Christmas is a perfect time to talk about your values and make a plan to put them into action now and in the coming year. We are often so busy during Christmas that it is easy to go through the motions of gift-gifting without connecting to the deeper meaning of giving. Yet it is these deep connections that shapes teen’s identities and teach them the gift of giving.
John 3:16 is a power lesson on giving. It teaches compassion and empathy. It is a great lesson to incorporate in your family tradition and as your teen begins to act independently will help him or her become passionate about giving. Studies show that what youth learn about giving during childhood and adolescence lasts a lifetime. Your giving will impact future generations. Merry Christmas! Joyful Giving!
Children are a product of their environment and teenagers are no exception. If they are subject to a hostile living environment where profanity is being used, shouting is always the way of communication or if there are issues of violence; then the teen is learning that these are the appropriate ways to deal with aggression.
This may not be the case in every situation. It could also be the teen is going through a rebellious phase.
There is a difference between anger and aggression. Anger is being upset and aggression is acting out violently. The most important thing that needs to be done is finding out the root to the problem and why the teen has so much aggression. Fear, guilt, betrayal, insecurity, deep rooted anger or a chemical imbalance are a few reasons for the aggressive behavior.
In the heat of the moment it is counterproductive to address the aggressive behavior that the teen is displaying. Once it deems impossible to resolve this matter among the two of you then soliciting outside help could be the solution. The teen may be more comfortable speaking openly and honestly to a school counselor, therapist or any other nonbiased person.
Aggression can be triggered by a variety of things and it is important to sit with your teen and discuss these issues that trigger their aggression. While having this discussion you may find out things you never knew and because they have been harboring these feelings the result often results in aggressive behavior.
The teen may have authority issues which would explain why they become aggressive when told to do something. While this is a great starting point, the teen needs to understand that being told what to do is a part of life and it does not stop during adulthood and this type of behavior warrants consequences.
A physical outlet such as a Tae Kwon Do class could prove to be very helpful in these situations. It will provide the teen an alternative outlet to relieve built up aggression in a controlled environment. This could also teach the teen respect and discipline. Of course, simply taking a martial arts class is not going to solve all your teen’s problems but it is a start in right direction. Nothing is ever guaranteed but, remember if you keep doing what you have been doing the end result will remain the same.
Written by Aurelia Williams
As a parent you would like to trust your children; but teenagers lie and the bond is broken, it puts a strain on the relationship. Once a parent realizes they have been lied to, feelings of anger may surface. While it seems to be a fact that teens and lies are like two peas in a pod, you want to know what steps to take to help your teen stop lying so that trust can be regained somewhere along the way.
The main thing to realize is that there may be many reasons why your teen is lying. Maybe they have become involved with the wrong crowd and feel that lying that is the only way they will fit in. You may also find that they use lying as a defense mechanism. A boost of self-esteem can also be a reason for lying. Whatever the reason, you want your teen to know that lying can cause serious consequences.
One of the most unfortunate occurrences in the parent and teen relationship is that to a teen telling a lie is not as serious as it is to the parent. It is understandable for a parent to feel a sense of responsibility when their teens lie. There may even be feeling guilty or a sense of failure. But there are some things to consider when it comes to dealing with a lying teen.
The moment you suspect your teen is lying, you need to give it immediate attention before it gets worse. Let them know you want to trust them and that lying will simply break the bond of trust you may have. Remember that trying to trap them in a lie is just as dishonest as the lie they may tell.
Explain to them how important it is to have a honest and respectful relationship and that anything outside of that will have clear consequences. Spell those consequences out so that they understand.
You, the parent must lead by example. Your teen needs to hear you being truthful. Even telling little white lies can lead your child away from success when it comes to be honest.
Teens and lying do not have to go hand-in-hand in your life if you take the necessary steps to break the habit early on. Recognize when they are lying, deal with the situation immediately, and explain that your expectation of them does not include dishonesty. You may soon find that they meet your expectation and so much more.
Written by Aurelia Williams
The Parable of the Sower provides a model for approaches to challenging character of our youth:
4 And when a great crowd was gathering and people from town after town came to him, he said in a parable, 5 “A sower went out to sow his seed. And as he sowed, some fell along the path and was trampled underfoot, and the birds of the air devoured it. 6 And some fell on the rock, and as it grew up, it withered away, because it had no moisture. 7 And some fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up with it and choked it. 8 And some fell into good soil and grew and yielded a hundredfold.” As he said these things, he called out, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” ~Luke 8:4-8 ESV
In this first approach, we encourage teens to adopt the outward symbols of faith. These might be wearing a cross around the neck or a WWJD bracelet around the wrist. The “symbols” might also be carrying their own Bible or listening to Christian music. It is a strategy common among parents and youth leaders who are trying to get a teenager to buy into Christian character, and while not wrong in itself, these outward symbols alone do not constitute true faith. Nor do they necessarily lead to the embracing of faith, as they are easily discarded or “eaten by the birds”.
This second approach tries to control the behavior of the young people. It might take two forms: positive and negative. A “negative” approach is to try to get the person to stop practicing behavior that is contrary to Christian character. This may be done by any means from gentle coercion through to outright threat. A more “positive” approach adopted by some is to urge the young person to embrace Christian behavior, which might be moral (doing the right thing), and/or spiritual, such as carrying a Bible, attending church and youth group, coming forward at a meeting, or being baptized. Neither strategy in itself is likely to achieve ultimate success, as the focus is on outward behavior and not the heart. The result is “shallow soil” and any apparent evidence of faith quickly “withers for lack of moisture.”
Another approach to lifestyle change is to try to impose parental values upon the teen. A common way we do this is by establishing certain Christian values as part of the culture of our youth ministry and expecting conformity. Generally these values are positive values such as kindness to others and respect for leadership. They may even be backed up by the majority of the youth group who adopt them and in doing so exert a positive peer pressure on the newcomer. Yet as desirable as this is, conformity to these values does not constitute conversion. A young person may exhibit adherence to these values while in the youth group, and yet once faced with conflicting circumstances and pressures may find these values easily “choked”
A more effective way to challenge culture is to focus on what is true. By giving teens accurate information they are able to receive the seed of God’s word and go on to “produce a crop one hundred times as much as had been planted.” Yet many are unable to receive this truth, blinded by the false worldview which has captivated them. If they are to be set free to embrace Christian character they must be impacted at a more profound level.
If your kids ever wonder, “What does God look like?” send them to me. I’ve seen His hands. I’ve seen them all my life – on an Iowa couple named George and Ruth. Before I could even read, I watched those hands empty bedpans, prepare sponge baths and feed Ruth’s elderly mother. During my teen years, after a drunk driver demolished our car with my whole family inside, I watched those hands build a mini-hospital in our livingroom. They made meals, washed sheets, scrubbed dishes and administered medications for months.
George and Ruth haven’t ended world hunger. They haven’t cured AIDS. They just see needs and quietly, tenderly meet them. My grandparents put flesh and bone to God’s great love.
Those hands not only changed who I was – they changed who I want to be.
Have your kids seen God’s hands? It’s great to talk about Jesus washing feet and feeding crowds, but those accounts are just bedtime stories to children who don’t witness servant behavior in their world.
That realization convicts me to examine my definition of “servanthood.” See, I’m a doer. I count my day successful if I’ve marked everything off my checklist. If you’re like me, you may even battle a production mentality in the realm of serving. Teaching Sunday school classes or taking someone a meal or writing a check to charity are all good activities. But are we cheerful givers? Or are we just trying to fill a quota? Hoping to impress someone? Attempting to get the church staff off our backs?
I’m not dissing day planners and lists, but my hunch is that Jesus wouldn’t use them. He seemed to keep his schedule open for divine appointments. He never avoided a task that was “beneath” Him or considered any person unworthy of His time.
Sure, He got frustrated: He wept for our lack of understanding, but He never gave up on His mission. Whether He was performing a marvelous miracle or holding a child, He did everything with great compassion.
He asked us to do likewise. Take time. Be humble. Keep on. Love.
Simple commands…but hard commands. Commands that don’t fit on a checklist.
Like God himself, our kids aren’t tracking the number of our activities or judging how “good” those works may seem. They’re watching to see if our hands are working in tandem with our hearts.
Growing up in church, I learned that following Christ’s example led to heavenly treasures. What I didn’t know was how richly God rewards servant behavior here on earth!
Maybe you’ve experienced those feelings of accomplishment and satisfaction after helping someone…but that’s just the beginning. Numerous studies link mental and physical health benefits with servanthood. Other research suggests that kids with a servant mindset have higher GPAs, better reading comprehension, sharper critical thinking and problem solving skills, higher levels of creativity, and a greater understanding of and appreciation for others. Kids who are given opportunities to serve others also tend to make healthier lifestyle choices and develop better social skills than those who don’t volunteer.
Even kids as young as five can reap some of these benefits, research suggests. Deborah Spaide, author of Teaching Your Kids to Care: How to Discover and Develop the Spirit of Charity in Your Children says that parents do their children a disservice by sheltering them too much from the world’s suffering.
“Kids can only go on for so long, feeling such painful empathy without any opportunity to do anything about it, before they begin to tell themselves to stop feeling anything at all.” Spaide says.
She suggests pointing them toward altruism before they become hardened, because serving others “helps kids discover their talents, hone their skills and begin to believe in themselves.”
It’s never too early to being cultivating servantlike traits. If we start by teaching and modeling basic kindness, we lay a foundation for communicating the value of work and charity. Some worthwhile aspects of servanthood to teach include
by Carolyn MacInnes