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Party Pooper!

Do I have to spend big bucks on my kid's birthday bash?

My friends are playing "can you top this?" when it comes to their children's birthday parties. I'm all for giving my seven-year-old daughter a fun time, but I feel cheap because we're not renting a clown, having a bouncy house, etc. Am I out of step with the times?

Yes, you are—but that's not necessarily a bad thing! Consider this an opportunity to talk to your daughter about how it's actually more important to be a God-pleaser than a man-pleaser. Be straight with her if you can't afford a big party. Even if you can, explain to her you don't feel spending that kind of money is being a good steward of your God-given resources.

At the same time, birthday parties are part of the fun of being a kid—and of being a mom! The good news is, it's possible to create wonderful memories for your seven-year-old without breaking the bank or succumbing to parental peer pressure.

When my children were young, we always had a theme birthday party. One year our daughter Haven had an "Upside-down" sleepover. The girls ate donuts and cereal for dinner and pizza for breakfast. I bought a cake from the grocery store, turned it upside-down, and put the candles on the bottom. Another year, I threw our daughter Clancy a "Baby Doll Shower" for her birthday. We served punch in bottles, played games blindfolded while eating baby food, and held diaper-changing relays. Our son, Tucker, once had a "Pirate Party" where the boys had swordfights with super-long breadsticks and followed a treasure map to find "buried" chocolate coins.

None of these parties cost much, but my children still talk about how much fun they had. Who wants to keep in step with the world when you can walk alongside our Creator, be a cool parent, and be a wise steward all at the same time?

Divided Holidays

My husband and I recently divorced, and my children, 9 and 12, are acting out their hurt by being "lippy." Now they have to split their time between their dad and me during the holidays, and I know that will be especially tough. Help!

I don't know if this makes you feel better, but your 9- and 12-year-old probably would be "lippy" under the best of circumstances in these confusing adolescent years. So there's no need to lump all these surfacing attitudes into the "because of the divorce" category.

Be compassionate with your kids, but don't let disrespect creep in unchecked. Your children need to know now, more than ever, that they're safe in the protection of a parent who expects and deserves respect. Perhaps when they respond to you insolently, you can pull them aside, draw them close, and explain, "I can't allow you to talk to me like that or in that tone of voice, but I really do want to know what's going on. Want to talk about it?"

The more opportunities they have to express their feelings openly, the less need there'll be for them to vent through "lippiness." They may find it easier to talk to someone else. Is there a pastor, youth leader, grandparent, or family friend who can spend time with them regularly for a few months to cultivate a safe atmosphere in which they can express some of their hurt and confusion?

The most comforting thing I can share with you through this painful transition is a reminder that the Lord specifically tells us it's through suffering we most readily come to know him in a deeper way (Philippians 3:8). Divorce is a tragedy, especially for children. But God is bigger than divorce, and he can use this tumultuous Christmas to speak foundational truths to their tender hearts. Talk often with them, but more importantly, teach them to talk often with their heavenly Father, who will never leave them or forsake them.

Great Guy, Just Not a Christian

My teenage daughter is spending a lot of time with a sweet guy from school who isn't a Christian. This boy actually treats my daughter better than some of the Christian guys she's dated. I'm torn between letting her keep dating him or requiring her to cut it off. Any thoughts?

Wow! That's a hot-potato question. What makes this so hazy are the guys who say they're Christian yet behave the same as young men who don't profess to be Christ-followers. But God says clearly in his Word, "Do not be yoked together with unbelievers" (2 Corinthians 6:14).

Here's the tricky part—getting your daughter to come to this decision on her own. Obviously there are times when parents need to put their foot down. But as children become young adults, it's important to train them to make the tough choices themselves. We must give them good reasons to choose God's way—he does! For instance, the reason God gives for not hooking up with unbelievers is beautiful: "What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: 'I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.' 'Therefore come out from them and be separate, says the Lord. Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you.' 'I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty'" (2 Corinthians 6:16-18).

Appeal to your daughter's desire to first and foremost be a daughter of God. Show her in God's Word the parameters he sets not only for her protection, but for her blessing. Nothing—or no one—can compare to unrestricted fellowship with our heavenly Father and holy Lord.

Lisa Whelchel is the author of Creative Correction (Focus on the Family) and the mother of three. Visit her website at www.lisawhelchel.com. Have a parenting question for Lisa? E-mail her at tcwedit@ christianitytoday.com.

Read more articles that highlight writing by Christian women at ChristianityToday.com/Women

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