I recently sat down with a group of thirteen and fourteen year old kids hoping to gain insight into their thoughts about meaningful gift giving. Trying to steer them clear of commercial products, I prompted them with the question, “What would you like from your parents that doesn’t cost money?”
Their conversations were mature, thoughtful and revealing. Caroline lamented, “This Christmas there is one thing I want from my parents. That is happy times in the New Year – no arguments. [I] just [want to] enjoy each other’s company.” Nicole, Brandon, Brianna, and Anthony all expressed similar sentiments. Anxiety due to conflicts in the home and the need for time together permeated our discussion.
A few claimed to need more freedom and independence, but for the most part these teens wanted attention. Some expressed specific needs.
Caylen said, “For Christmas I want my mom to play some games with my brother and me.”
Daisy wants, “… my whole family to be together again. We can go to the park or just stay home and watch a movie.”
Alex proposed, “We can look at old photo albums. Also, I would like my parents to tell me something about the photos – tell me about their past.”
As the exchange continued, I realized that the overwhelming sentiment was a need for more family time. I was, as I often am, pleasantly surprised by their considerate appeals.
I began thinking; maybe the old adage that teenagers desire less time with their parents was hogwash. Maybe the idea that quality time is more important than quantity is bunk too. A trip to Disneyland is great, but these young adolescents wanted more time with mom and dad every day.
I find as a middle school teacher that parent participation drops off dramatically around sixth grade. I’m not sure why, but my guess would be that children are starting to ask for more independence. I say, don’t believe them. At least talk with them and question this notion.
If you haven’t engaged with your kids in a while, now is as good a time as ever. Take them to a movie and have dinner after. If conversation is at a lull, discuss the movie. Begin, or reinstate game night once a week. Charades, card games, Monopoly, chess or checkers are fun at any age.
Start scrapbooking. Kids of all ages love to look at past pictures as well as recent ones. Admiring baby photos will lead to delightful memories and chitchat. Conversations of when and where the pictures were taken will be irresistible. Buy some picture frames and decorate them. Pop in a picture and voila! One holiday gift is ready for wrapping.
Also, check in with middle school and high school teachers. Talk with them about your child’s exemplary or unsatisfactory grades and behavior. Ask their English teacher to share what your child has written in class. You too, will be pleasantly surprised.
Contact Margaret Lavin at firstname.lastname@example.org