I recently had a conversation with a member of our youth program and as we were catching up on her grades, her homecoming experience and all of the other exciting things facing the typical teenager today, the conversation took a turn into a different direction. As I sat there admiring what a beautiful, smart, intelligent, young lady she was growing up to be, my heart was saddened when she began to share how things looked great on the outside but how she was crying out and just trying to keep it together on the inside.
To my surprise, she began to share that she was depressed and extremely stressed out with school, friendships and family relations at home; explaining...
that she was just trying to keep her head above water. As I listened to her frustrations and she began identifying her needs, she expressed that what she wanted and needed more than anything in the world was to have quality time with her parents.
As tears welled up in her eyes, my heart went out to her because I realized that her comments were oh so familiar and are echoed and communicated by many youth that I come in contact with. Whether they share their feeling in small group sessions, in private prayer requests, or express them through their actions of self destruction, our youth are crying out and the thing they want most of all is something that every parent and care giver can give. Time and time again I hear that kids want verbal and demonstrative acts of love and affection that have nothing to do with material things that have a big price tag.
During this holiday season I have read about parents standing in line overnight for the latest toys and gadgets, and heard news reports that the average family will spend up to $800 for Christmas gifts. In the hustle and bustle of the season, how many of us actually take the time to consider that while the presents are being stacked under the tree and the cash registers are ringing off the hook to the satisfaction of the retailers, many of our youth at the end of the day on December 25th would much rather have a year filled with hugs, affirmations and the simple words “I love you”?
As I was wrapping up my conversation with the beautiful girl mentioned, she shared that although parents assume kids know that they are loved, she felt it is important for them to hear the words. As she was leaving me that day, she begged me to share with all parents, that a heart felt “I love you” spoken daily, a hug (regardless of age), or a few hours a week of uninterrupted time with them can give a child the strength, encouragement and boost of self-esteem needed to fight the many pressures they face in today’s world.
So, my Christmas gift to her is to share her heartfelt plea with the parents of world. Let’s make sure that as we make that Christmas list and check it twice, that we don’t forget the most important gift and the one that will last a life time… the gift of love, appreciation and affirmation to our children.
For great inexpensive ideas consider the following:
Nicole Steele is President of GEM Makers, LLC and Executive Director of Diamond In The Rough a faith-based leadership program that provides group mentoring, life skills training and career coaching to girls ages 4-18. For more information on Diamond In The Rough visit www.ditr.org or call (678) 376-9676.
Copyright 2014 Nicole Steele and GEM Makers LLC. Used with permission.