Helping Your Teenager Reclaim the Meaning of Easter
To mix a phrase from Kermit the Frog, "It's not easy being 'tween."
This word "tween" doesn't just represent an age group of kids who aren't little kids but aren't yet older teens... it represents my second son. He's smack dab in this age group, and I wonder sometimes how he needs me to inspire him differently than I do his older and younger siblings.
Then there are times when he inspires me, like when he recently invited our neighbors out to Easter at our church.
Our congregation provides small invite cards at our welcome center, which happen to be right next to dessert cards that we hand out to first-time guests. I watched him one week grab a stack of both and explain that he wanted to invite his friends next door to church "especially with Easter coming up."
I paused and wondered why I hadn't taken this step.
Granted, I've been reaching out to my neighbors, but doing it through a relationship. Slowly, my hope has been to build a credible relationship that paves the way for an invitation when it feels right.
Meanwhile, my tween is just out there, boldly going for it.
I love this mixture of childlike awe and older responsibility. I started wondering if I could intentionally nurture this by bridging some traditions from when he was younger with the maturing of him becoming older. Here's are some ideas I came up with for "a very teen Easter":
- Springtime Scavenger Hunt: Skip the plastic eggs, and instead wrap some practical and fun gifts for your teen to find around the house (or outside, if appropriate). Shop for some small items they'll want for the warmer months ahead, along with an invitation to spend time together with you or others:
- Swim goggles: "This is good for one pool party at the rec center for you and two of your friends."
- New water bottle: "I dare you to out-yoga me. Winner gets to pick toppings on pizza for dinner that night."
- Sunglasses: "Let's go chase the sun on a road trip together."
- Empty shoebox: "This is empty now, but I'd like to take you to pick out a new pair of shoes of your choosing (within reason, of course)"
- Fishing lure: "Who knows if we'll catch anything, but let's go fishing together. You can bring a friend along, too."
- Old lunch box: "Instead of filling it with old food, I thought we'd grab lunch at one of your favorite places."
- Suntan lotion: "Hang onto this because we're going to a beach... just you and me."
- Easter basket: Use a little creativity to put together a teen-version of an Easter basket, just like you did when they were a kid. Explain that they get to enjoy all that's inside, but do need to share at least two items with someone else in the spirit of Easter. Some things to include: candy, small puzzle, video game, gift cards (such as itunes, their favorite restaurant, etc) magazine or comic book, ear buds, bag of popcorn taped to a DVD or movie tickets. And since it is Easter, after all, consider including something to help grow their relationship with Jesus, such as a simple devotional book, journal for writing down prayers, Christian music CD, etc. (for more ideas, visit Lifetree Family's Easter gift page)
- Re-experience Easter: There are some great movies and books that you can expose your teen to that might personalize the Easter story. For tweens, The Action Bible: Easter Story is a free download that will walk them through it in a comic book format. Older teens may be up for watching a scene from a live-action movie like "The Gospel According to Matthew" or "The Gospel of John," or perhaps a music video on YouTube that combines present-day music with these images of the past.
- Go deep: If your teen has questions about Easter, don't ignore them. Encourage them to write down a list of the questions that matter most and agree to explore the answers together. A great resource is "The Case for Christ: Youth Edition" by Lee Strobel. Even if every question isn't answer, begin with the ones you can sort out together.
I'd appreciate hearing any additional ideas you have.
Easter is an incredible time to claim a new starting point with God that merges the past, present and future together.
Be in awe.