Annetta describes what became a new family tradition:

“On the Christmas before spring graduation, I went back through all her school pictures and made photocopies of different ones, which were then used as name tags on everyone’s gifts. Each person passed their gift around before opening and made silly and serious comments about their memories of the picture. What a fun night of memories! I also secretly learned her favorite foods and served them for our family Christmas dinner. From that date on the rest of the kids wanted the same treatment!” – Story shared with Pam Farrel (December 2008). Used by permission.

Annetta knows the secret of opening a heart – joy. A little laughter can set a loving atmosphere that prepares a heart to receive the more serious words when given. Laughter, because it releases endorphins, helps energize and embed a shared moment into the memory.

On her spiritual birthday

Pastor’s wife Cindy McMenamin shares a tradition her family did for her daughter, Dana, on the yearly anniversary of when she began a relationship with Christ. Cindy explains:

“Early on in Dana’s younger years we established a tradition of recognizing her ‘re-birthday’ – the anniversary of the day she first gave her life to Christ. So on her first re-birthday at age eight, I gave her a ‘blessing’ bracelet (what most people call a charm bracelet) and each year would add another ‘charm’ to represent a blessing that she has in Christ.

“Eventually, she got the charms at certain occasions that I wanted her to remember, with a heart of gratitude to God for making that occasion possible. For instance, at her first piano recital, she got a little silver piano charm to place on her blessing bracelet, to remind her of the musical ability God blessed her with.

“After spending a weekend with her in Palm Springs, she got a little palm tree charm for the bracelet, as a reminder to thank God that we were able to have that weekend. When she turned 12, the ‘blessing’ on her bracelet was a little cheetah purse that symbolized the ‘riches’ she has in Christ. The bracelet, now full of blessings, is a keepsake that she often shows others as she recounts what God has blessed her with.” – Story shared with Pam Farrel (December 2008). Cindy McMenamin is also the author of When Women Walk Alone: Finding Strength and Hope Through the Seasons of Life (Harvest House Publishers, 2002). Used by permission.

To share a vision of purity

Gina Rackley’s girls received purity rings on their 13th birthdays after completing the Relationship Contract created by Pam and Bill Farrel. Gina shares:

“Petra lost her ring during her junior year in high school at a track meet. She had put it into her pocket right before her hurdle race and when she took her sweats off, she lost it. She was devastated and crying because she knew that we would never find that little ring in that huge football field. So, we stopped and prayed and trusted that it would show up. We walked up and down the field with her friends looking but found nothing.

“At the very end of the meet, a mom from the other team came up to Ron (who was coaching at the time), not knowing that Ron was Petra’s dad or that she had lost her ring, and told him that she had found this ring. Petra saw the faithfulness of the Lord and how he answers prayer.”

Beginning the summer when a daughter is 13, each Rackley daughter also reads Preparing for Adolescence by Dr. James Dobson with her parents; then each summer after, the daughter is assigned an additional relationship or character-building book.

Dana’s parents gave her a purity ring at age 16 with a little more panache. Since Dana is active in music and dance, her Sweet 16 was a “Hollywood” night complete with a “movie” (PowerPoint of still pictures and video) of Dana’s life set to a favourite Christian song and a live band from her Christian school that played favourite tunes. Dana was released to date by her dad after receiving her purity ring.

To give back

Author Nancy Sebastian Meyer writes:

“For our daughter’s high school graduation party, we are in the midst of planning a special dinner to honour the people who have been instrumental in teaching and mentoring Becky throughout her life. In this way, she is celebrating their accomplishments and thanking them for the gifts they have already given her by giving them appreciation. This, we feel, is a good way to transition her from being in the spotlight to giving back to those who built into her life.” – Personal story shared with Pam Farrel (December 2008). Used by permission.

On a tough day

Nancy also knew the beginning of menses is a hard day for most girls so she planned to do something special with her daughter whenever that day appeared:

“I wanted to make it a positive celebration rather than allow it to be something to fear getting – or not getting – as soon as all the other girls. So I promised Becky that regardless of the day, when her period came we would take off and share a ‘girl’s day out’ complete with ear piercing (for which she had begged a long time).

“On the special day, we skipped school to celebrate with the earrings, a makeover at the mall, lunch at a fun restaurant and a game of miniature golf – all to make her feel really good about being a woman with additional responsibilities.” Ibid.

With dad

Rich Meyer (Nancy Sebastian Meyer’s husband) has a tradition of taking his daughter out for breakfast on the first day of school, then giving her a new charm for her charm bracelet, along with some words of encouragement to launch her year.

To remember

When my sons and nieces and nephews were small, we [the Farrel family] had more than one Christmas when money was tight. One year I felt God tell me, “Then write them a story.” So I created a children’s story where the punch line at the end was “and the angel is you!” Then each child was given an angel-shaped ornament (made of paper!) and the child was placed in the centre of the extended family circle where everyone would say something nice about that child, and it was recorded on the ornament.

When the boys were all teens, we took one Christmas to reread what people said about them to remind them of all the good others saw in them. When fiancées and wives began to enter our family, we again pulled out the ornaments to read and rejoice to see how many words of blessing had actually come true through the Lord’s power in each of their lives.

If your own daughter is still very young, you might consider tweaking this Christmas tradition and each Christmas give her a “crown” or princess ornament (or any ornament that would hold special meaning for your daughter) and tie to it a new positive trait or area of growth you have seen in her life. By the year of her rite of passage, many tiaras will be sprinkled through your Christmas tree, and perhaps these can be wrapped and given to her the night of her rite-of-passage celebration, as she graduates high school, at her wedding shower or as a gift for her to begin her own tree and her own affirming celebrations as she forms a new family.

© 2009 Focus on the Family. All rights reserved. Used with permission. Adapted from Raising a Modern-Day Princess © 2009 Pam Farrell and Dorren Hanna, a Focus on the Family resource published by Tyndale House Publishers.

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