Three Refreshing Conversations to Have with Your Teen This Holiday

The holiday season is upon us. Schools are finishing exams, and everyone will soon be off for a few weeks of Christmas vacation. Ahhh. Finally, we all get a break. For some, the holidays are the most cherished time of the year. (My mother embodied this mindset. She wished family visits and Christmas lights would last for months.) For others, the holidays hold memories of disappointment or even loss. (They wish the break would speed by quickly.) For too many of us, however, there’s a third category. It includes those of us who enter the holiday with great expectations, but fail to genuinely experience them by the time January rolls around. The days just slip by us. We end up enduring the stress of preparations, purchases and clean up, but neglect to take advantage of time with our young people—our students—our home.

May I offer three ideas for conversations to have with your young people, over the holidays? I don’t claim they’re brilliant. They don’t require a rocket scientist to navigate the topics. They simply represent a way for you to schedule time to get away, grab a latte, and host a conversation while you’re getting some down time.

Three Holiday Conversations…

1. Talk About Relaxing vs. Recovering

Most high school or college students would tell you they had a busy fall semester. Between classes, work, practice, exams and friendships, millions of young adults will enter Christmas break ready to “veg out.” Curiously, within days many will say they’re bored. So, they’ll grab their phone out of habit. They’ll sit and do nothing except scroll through their feeds, seeing what captures their attention. We’re addicted to the stimuli those smart phones offer us. Why not schedule some time to grab a coffee and talk about the difference between relaxing (vegging in boredom) and really recovering from the stress of a busy Fall. There’s a difference. Relaxing feels real, but still doesn’t offer true recovery. Genuine recovery comes from experiences that are:

  • Quiet. This means our brains need a break from the noise of social media. Try placing the phone out of your reach and occupy yourself with some other interest.
  • New. This means trying something new is as good as rest; it refreshes our minds. Try choosing one new activity, subject or person and get acquainted.
  • Nourishing. This means feeding your mind with something constructive. This works to refresh you and enables you to recover from a draining lifestyle.

2. Talk About Consuming vs. Contributing.

Our 21st century culture (at least in industrialized nations) conditions us to be consumers. Don’t feel guilty—we all are. This especially surfaces at Christmas, where our young are obsessed with what gifts they’re going to “get.” The problem is, too few students have been conditioned to contribute at a young age. Their excuse is that they don’t have any money or time. They assume that when they get older, they’ll begin contributing. The trouble is, the later we start a habit the harder it is to get it to stick. Why not grab a coffee with your young person and talk about contributing now—while they’re still young. They might not have tons of money, but they can offer some passionate service for a couple of hours. They may not have lots of time, but they can offer a little to an underserved child. In other words, you don’t have to pay money, but you can pay attention. I know one high school sophomore who told his parents he’d like to swap the money they planned to spend on his Christmas presents and use it to buy some gifts for the children of a single mom he knows. He knew they would have gone without anything this holiday—and he had plenty— so he gave what he could.

3. Talk About Contrasting vs. Comparing.

Over the holidays, millions of people fall into the “comparison trap.” Having some down time is good—unless it nudges us to become obsessed with some social media platform to see what others are doing or receiving at Christmas. This can turn a positive, grateful mindset into a very negative, grumpy mindset—very quickly. If students were honest, they’d confess that their Christmas gifts look great until they get on Instagram or Snapchat. Why not grab a coffee and talk about this before you open any presents? This last year, I met students who loved opening their gifts, but hours later were bored or dissatisfied. Why? They were paralyzed by either getting too much or by seeing too much of what their friends received.

This year, let’s give ourselves some boundaries to enjoy what’s in front of us, not what’s on a screen. Decide on a span of time when everyone agrees to silence their phones or put them in a basket until later that evening. What if you focused on the contrast between what you enjoy on a daily basis, compared with most people on earth. Almost half the world—over three billion people—live on less than $2.50 a day. At least 80% of humanity lives on less than $10. a day. A full 89% of youth live in impoverished nations, not industrialized nations. Hmmm. Sort of makes you want to count your blessings, doesn’t it?

My goal in suggesting these conversations is not for you to take a guilt trip. Rather, it’s for you to enjoy your coffee and conversation and to keep a clear perspective—one that enables you to refresh yourself with meaningful moments this December. It’s time to be intentional.

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Three Refreshing Conversations to Have with Your Teen This Holiday