If you haven’t noticed already, the holiday season changes as we get older.
When we’re young, Christmastime is filled with so much wonder and whimsy. Lights hang from houses in our neighborhoods, and we get excited to drive around and take them all in. We wake up early to make sure we don’t miss a minute of the Thanksgiving Day Parade. We wear matching pajamas and decorate the house together as a family. But as a young adult, the holiday season can just feel so awkward.
I remember the first time I walked through the doors of my childhood home as a young adult. I smelled all of the holiday smells and saw the house decked out with Christmas cheer and realized that I had nothing to do with any of it. My parents did it all without me because, well, I wasn’t there anymore. It was hard, and honestly, I was a little sad. I realized then that the holidays would never really be the same anymore. I would have to mourn all of the holiday traditions and memories from when I was a kid.
As young adults coming home for the holidays, we just have to face the facts—everything from this moment forward is going to be different. It’s going to be new. While the nostalgia may tug at our hearts and have us wishing things could go back to how they were, that’s just not reality. But here’s the good news: There’s so much adventure in the new!
But it starts with intentionality.
Let me explain: When you’re coming home for the holidays, you can’t expect your family to treat you like they used to.
Dinner might not be on the table every night. Mom might not want to do your laundry for you. Dad may not have time to help you change the oil in your car. Your parents are learning how to step back and allow you to grow into who God’s created you to be. As they’re learning to step back, you can learn to step up.
Young Adults, Step Right Up
1. Step up and be respectful of their time and expectations. Are you planning to come home and veg out in front of the TV? Are you hoping to spend most of your time catching up with old friends? Whatever you’re going into the holiday season focused on, be sure to communicate your expectations to your parents and allow them to communicate theirs to you. Let them know just how much time you want to spend with them and how much time you’d like to spend alone or with friends.
2. Step up and help contribute around their house while you’re home. You may not want to, or it may feel weird at first. But help with a few chores. Help with cooking or cleaning if you can.
3. Step up and communicate with them what your plans are while you’re there. And when you do plan to spend time out of the house, be sure to communicate arrivals and departures. Your parents just want to know you’re being safe and that they can expect to spend quality time with you.
4. Step up and be emotionally present. Listen, I know it’s hard. But have you ever gone out to dinner with friends and looked over at the table next to you to see a family of four all looking down at their phones? Please don’t be that family! Quality time means being present emotionally, not just physically. Start asking your family to put their phones away during dinner. Try not to hide yourself in your room with your laptop. What’s the point of going home for the holidays if you’re planning to be distracted throughout the whole visit?
News flash: Your parents have expectations of their holiday season just like you do!
Speaking of parents, don’t think we’ve forgotten about you! Approach God with open hands this holiday season when it comes to your adult kids and their futures. God will give you the grace to know how you can nurture your relationship with them. As they’re stepping up into all that God has for them within adulthood, you have the opportunity to step back.
Parents, Time to Step Back
1. Step back and wait for them to open up. Of course you’re going to want to updates on school, work, significant others, and all of the things going on in your young adult’s life! But try to take a deep breath, relax, and just let them share things in their own timing. Your kids want you to be involved in their lives, but they don’t want to come home to a job interview either! Rapid-fire questions can just feel so overwhelming when all your child wants to do is relax and enjoy their holiday break.
2. Step back and listen more. When your son or daughter does decide to give you that life update you’ve been waiting for, listen to them! It sounds simple, but if we’re really honest with ourselves, listening isn’t always one of our greatest strengths. Your young adult wants a parent they know is listening to and praying for them, not one who is going to solve all of their problems. Don’t worry. If they need your advice or help with something, they’ll ask you for it!
3. Step back and let them be in charge sometimes! As you’re making new traditions with your family, let your young adults help decide what those new traditions might be! They may have some really great ideas that you’d never have thought of. Who knows, maybe you’ll really enjoy going to a painting class together or trying out the escape room downtown! Your kids are at an age where they can contribute to what God has next for your family. It’s okay to let them take the reins sometimes!
4. Step back and be emotionally present. It’s not just young adults who struggle with distractions; parents do too! This holiday season you have an opportunity to live in the moment. Your young adult made a conscious choice to be home with you, so enjoy this time you get with them. Don’t spend your precious moments trying to talk them into coming to visit more often. Instead of focusing on the time that you don’t get with your kids, focus on the time that you do get to spend with them. And that’s right now!
Whether you’re a parent or a young adult, the best thing you can do this holiday season is to simply be intentional. Creating new traditions and forming new memories with your family starts with intentionality!
Whether you’re traveling near or far, down the street or across the country, I hope you’ll accept this challenge to either step up or to step back. No matter how different the holiday season has become, don’t forget that your family has the opportunity to learn and grow together this year. There are so many new traditions and memories ahead for you on this journey; please don’t let them pass you by!