Just a couple of weeks ago I tweeted, “City Life teens can have more bad memories of holidays than good. Pray for them and affirm your love for them!”  For so many City Life students, Christmas doesn’t evoke strong memories of holiday cheer or family laughter.  From family secrets to addiction, sometimes the holiday legacy that is handed down to our teens in the ‘hood is one of stress, violence and relapse.

From http://bit.ly/ecrKsY:  “Even though the holiday season is suppose to bring joy and happiness, it can also bring a lot of stress. Stress is one of the leading causes of relapse. The recovering addict would once use alcohol and drugs to deal with the stress of every day life.  If overwhelmed with an abundant amount of stress, which the holiday season brings, and the recovering addict is not taking proper care of himself or herself then a relapse may very well occur.”

Often, our students have a front row seat to a parent, sibling or family member who is struggling with addiction.  Relapses can create difficult and painful experiences at Christmas time.

As tough as the holidays can be for our teens, this is a critical opportunity for us as City Life staff or volunteers!  We must affirm our love for our City Life students and remind them of the true meaning of the Christmas season.  God is Emmanuel!  God is with us, even when times are tough.  

We can’t, nor shouldn’t, save our City Life teens from their families.  Instead, we can come alongside them in their struggles.  We should be prepared to show them additional emotional and spiritual support during the Christmas season.  Here are just a few practical ideas of how you can affirm your love for them.

  • Proactively make a plan against relapse, but don’t be surprised if your City Life student slips up.  Many of the City Life students we are in relationship with will make significant progress in breaking an addiction during the year, only to relapse during the holiday season.  You should be aware of this well documented trend with addicts and not become too discouraged.  Read up on some ways you can help your City Life teen make a plan for getting through the holidays (that includes prayer) without a relapse!  Here is a secular resource about relapse tips: http://bit.ly/5NAPhx  


  • Include City Life students in your family holiday celebrations.  Invite them to bake cookies, trim the tree, or share in the advent meal.  Whatever your holiday traditions are, invite a City Life student or two to share with you in the festivities.  It doesn’t have to be formal, it could even be just sitting around the fire and watching a movie!


  • Encourage your volunteers to include City Life students in their holiday traditions.  From Christmas shopping to a Christmas service at church.  Why not invite a student or two along??


  • Send City Life students a Christmas card.  One year my volunteers divided up our group and wrote a personal letter to each student in our ministry.  We used the letter to share all of the positive qualities we saw in that particular student.  These letters were so meaningful to our teens, they were crying as they read them!


  • Send your City Life teens a text on Christmas day.  Make sure students know that they are more than a “job” to you.  Shoot them a short text on Christmas day to wish them a Merry Christmas and ask them how their day is going.


  • Ask a City Life teen to spend Christmas Eve or Christmas Day with you.  This option might not work for every student, but some students would be a delight to spend the day with!  Some students might even be afraid to say “yes” to you.  I remember one of my City Life students whose mother went into the hospital on December 23rd.  She was an only child and didn’t have anywhere to go for Christmas Eve.  I invited her to my mother’s house for Christmas Eve with us and at first she said “no!”.  While she trusted me and my husband, Bryan, she was afraid of experiencing racism at the hands of my extended family.  She ended up coming and had a great time.  We have invited another City Life student who has no family to spend Christmas with us no less than 5 times over the years and he has never accepted.  Still, I believe it is good for those students who have extenuating family circumstances to know that they are wanted!  

Enjoy making great memories with your City Life teens this Christmas!

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