During the holiday season, many parents want to know what their kids really want. When Suzanne Eller, author of Real Issues, Real Teens, asked teens to choose between a $200 gift certificate and a weekend with one or both parents, she received hundreds of fun, introspective and sometimes sad answers. In the end, nearly 98 per cent of the teens chose the weekend with parents.

Teens who spent a great deal of time with family presented a mixture of responses, but almost 100 per cent of teens whose parents were absent due to work, responsibilities or other reasons opted for the weekend.

"As a normal teenager, I would choose the gift certificate. But now that I think about it, the last time I spent a whole weekend with my parents was . . . NEVER, so I would like to spend the weekend with them." – Diana C., age 16

Culture of busyness

Your presence and time are valuable to your teen. However, the reality is that families struggle with a myriad of demands. A culture of busyness has produced a nation of overworked, fatigued parents.Sometimes these demands cause parents to "check out" once they arrive home.

"I wish my dad would spend more quality time with me and not worry so much about work. I wish we would have more in-depth conversations without him watching TV while I’m talking."–Michelle H., age 17

True priorities

Define the significant things in your life, and rate them in order of importance. Then take inventory of the past month and the percentage of time spent on each. The actual time spent reveals true priorities.If you say that family time is a high priority, but it’s minimal or inconsistent, then perhaps this is an opportunity to restructure those priorities.

"I think it would be really fun to hang out, plus my mom is worth more to me than a $200 gift certificate any day." – Adam D., age 18

The best gift

You don’t have to do it all. You are not required to give your kids every material thing or every opportunity. Perhaps the best gift will be discovered as you slow down and enjoy the simple pleasures of togetherness, even when the rest of the world is still spinning wildly.

From Focus on Your Child’s Teen Phases, December 2006. Published by Focus on the Family. © 2006 Focus on the Family. All rights reserved. International copyright secured. Used by permission.

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