2009-12-10 / Church

Focus on the Family with Dr. James Dobson

Holiday Trips Can be Pricey, but Memories are Priceless

Question: Money is tight this year and we’re thinking about cancelling our trip home to see my mother and father for Christmas. Our young boys are already talking about missing Grandma and Grandpa, but I’m trying to assure them we’ll make it next year. Do you agree?

Dr. Dobson: Not necessarily. Each family is allotted a finite number of holiday seasons in a lifetime, and each of them is priceless beyond measure. You’re wise to live within your budget. But assuming you’re not talking about thousands of dollars, perhaps you could consider the trip home as a gift in and of itself. Be creative. Wrap up a “voucher” and mark it good for a trip to the grandparents and let your children open it as they would a traditional present on Christmas morning.

Having been where you’ve been, I’m reminded of one of my happiest memories as an adult that happened to have occurred during the Christmas season. Let me tell you about it. Perhaps it will give you some perspective.

I can close my eyes today and relive the year my wife, two children and I boarded an airplane for Kansas City, where we spent the holidays with my mother and father. The plane landed and I stepped into the terminal, instantly catching sight of my 6- foot-4-inch Dad towering above the crowd. There was a twinkle in his eyes and a smile on his face. He could hardly wait to tell me about a book he had been reading. And, of course, Mom was aglow with excitement. Her “children” were home for Christmas! What joyful moments those were when Danae and Ryan were young and my parents were alive. Our kids would wholeheartedly agree.

I’m thankful today that we invested the effort to create these treasured memories that will endure for a lifetime. My mom and dad are now gone, of course, and our children are grown. All the money in the world wouldn’t turn back the clock. Wise is the person, someone once said, who can see the end at the beginning. In other words, taking the long view of life is usually the shortest route to regret-free living.

What I have written might only serve to frustrate you in these tight financial times, but perhaps the principle I have shared will be valuable at a future time.

Question: You have recommended for many years that parents take their preteens away from home for what you called a “Preparing for Adolescence” weekend, during which they talk about the physical and emotional changes about to occur. I’m interested in your comment that kids want this information before they become teenagers, but they won’t want to talk about it after puberty. Do their attitudes really change that much overnight?

Dr. Dobson: As a matter of fact, they do. A study of 1,023 children between ten and thirteen showed that the number who felt uncomfortable talking to their parents about sexuality nearly doubled after puberty occurred. Prior to that, they were very open to instruction and guidance at home. Ninety-three percent of those aged ten to twelve felt loved by their parents “all the time,” says Dr. Alvin Poussaint, a psychiatrist at Harvard University. He said, “I think parents may be surprised that children of this age are saying, ‘We want to be close to you. We need you and we’re still afraid. We need the sense of safety and security that you supply.’”

The study showed, however, that attitudes changed dramatically when the children reached the eighth grade. Those who had been open to advice the year before were suddenly unwilling to talk to their parents. The window of accessibility had closed.

The moral to the story? Invest a little time in the months before puberty to get your children ready for the stresses of adolescence. The effort will pay big dividends.


Dr. Dobson is founder and Chairman Emeritus of the nonprofit organization Focus on the Family, Colorado Springs, Colo. 80995 (www.focusonthefamily.org).

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