There is a lot to love about the holiday season. One of the things I love most is gifting. I find it so sweet to wander along the streets, all alight with sparkling LED’S on lamp posts, trees and store windows. I love to peek into various stores, feeling around for what might make my loved ones laugh or sparkle inside. I love to discover little treasures that they might savor. I’ve always enjoyed this process, and I start as soon as the leaves begin to fall.
Those of you who have kids around 9-14 years old may feel a little challenged by what to get for the tween in your life. I’d like to share with you some treasures you can give to your pre-teen child. But first, I’ll explain my approach.
I always tell parents that the big “parenting” gig is up when your child is about 14 years old. By that age, they really need autonomous choice. It’s developmentally appropriate for them to have the space to make their own decisions about their friends, clothes, food, homework, downtime, and so on. So, if you did the job okay, they will make some decent choices. When your child reaches the teenage years, your job as a parent is simply to find ways you can genuinely approve of them, regardless of their choices. And also to let them fall on the terrible choices they make, without bailing them out too much, so they get to understand real world consequences while under the protection of a warm roof and regular meals.
However, children who are younger, about 9yrs–14yrs, can begin to understand your spiritual choices in a deeper way. It’s the right time for them to naturally be curious. Which is to say, it is developmentally appropriate for them to build a foundation for how they approach big questions in life. For instance, children naturally begin to wonder why they are here, and what life is all about, right around the age of eight or nine. (Unless there is some real dysfunction or trauma in the household; traumatized children will start to consider these questions much earlier, when it is less developmentally appropriate.)
So, the tween in your life is starting to ask some big questions, and a wonderful support for them is to start mirroring a practice. I recommend a practice revolving around silence, inspiration, and giving back because they are the cornerstones for how to live in deeper awareness, and how to find the real answers to big questions. So, here are some good ideas for the holiday season ahead!
1. Silent Contemplation
Meditate together! But it doesn’t have to look like “Meditation”. Make it special and holiday-like: pour everyone their favorite tea or hot chocolate and sit together in silence for an hour. Children of all ages do really well with stillness. It’s such a great way to recharge and rejuvenate, and children need this. It’s just so rarely offered to them, instead they get trained to do “busy, busy, busy” from the example you set. So, make the sitting in silence something special, something cosy and sweet and together. Keep it really simple, just a quiet hour to feel into some silence. Drop all paraphernalia or disciplined technique. Let your kid journal or color in the hour and just take the time together to bathe in some deep silent nourishment. (Especially good for the boys!)
If you need a little support to find that bliss-filled nourishment, my guided meditations are great for this age group. I recommend Awareness for starters. Also, Go to Sleep is great to help them get to sleep.
(Click any image to go to its Amazon page.)
Music is really important in young people’s lives! Gift them some good music that they will relate to, and speaks of deeper, more spiritual content than the usual “they loved me, then left me” stuff usually targeted to this age group.
Here are some of my favorite youth artists to gift as downloads that your tween will relate to:
Trevor Hall – Kala is a good choice, but I also love Chapter of the Forest
Josh Garrels – has a strong Christian sensibility
Matisyahu – has a strong Jewish sensibility
Snatam Kaur – Grace is the best for gearing down to sleep! Snatam has a strong Sikh sensibilities.
3. Give Back
Create a special holiday tradition based on making time together to practice giving back. It’s very hard for ages 9-14yrs to understand the world beyond themselves. Developmentally, they need some help noticing there is a greater world out there, a world made up of other people with diverse instincts and ideas and needs. It’s very challenging for this age group to notice much beyond themselves, even that others have needs in the home, or in your neighborhood, or in their classroom. These are the years you want to start an ongoing mantra to your tween that says to them, “Thank you, that was very helpful.” It helps to pattern that they can contribute and their actions impact the wellbeing of others.
Here are some give-back ideas I love!
Start to practice the art of Give/Save/Spend: a lifelong practice you can do together!
Pick out some gifts this holiday for our global friends through Samaritan’s Purse.
I hope the holiday season is full of blessings for you and your family!