Last year, my teen daughter started out her last year of high school – while her boyfriend started his first year of college. It was a super-stressful time as a mom for me, because it was heartbreaking to watch her say goodbye and embark on a hopeful long-distance relationship with an awesome kid that we love as much as she does. In the final week before he left, tensions were high and anxiety was on overload. So I came up with an idea based on a Christmas tradition I started many years ago – I created a countdown calendar ‘Waiting Jar’ for her to count the days until their first visit four weeks away.
I realized that this idea could be used for a lot of other occasions – for when a parent travels far away, for when a educational goal is met (the end of the school year is fast approaching!!), or for any number of times when kids need a little help building patience while they wait for something important to happen. I would also even do something like this for an adult friend who needs a little support through a stressful time in her life. When I have done this in the past for an Advent Calendar, I came up with 24 mini-activities for each countdown day. Most days it was something simple, such as having an extra dessert or renting a favorite Christmas movie. On the weekends, the activities would be more involved, such as baking cookies.
What You Need to Make a Countdown Calendar “Waiting Jar”
- Paper – plain or scrapbook paper, whatever you want
- A mason jar – or even simply recycle a pickle jar. Just wash it well first!
- String or ribbon to tie the messages into little ‘gifts’
I wanted to fill up my daughter’s jar with empowering and positive messages so that she wouldn’t dwell on the fact that her boyfriend was gone. I also borrowed my own activity idea and came up with a handful of “assignments” for her to do, encouraging her to keep her thoughts positive. Examples were: “Write down 5 things you like and appreciate about yourself”, and “Write down 5 FUN things you will do between now and the 4th weekend in September.” Then I searched the web for appropriate fun quotes to remind her of how much we love her. You can see some of them in the image below:
I counted the days until her boyfriend’s visit, (33), I typed the quotes onto my old advent calendar template, and spaced out the activities so that she’d get them about once a week. Then I cut and folded each one so that only the number was showing, and tied them up with some colored thread so that she couldn’t peek ahead too easily:
Before I put them into the jar, I traced the lid onto a piece of perfectly-themed scrapbook paper and simply sandwiched the paper between the lid and rim. If you’re using a regular jar with a one-piece lid, you could decoupage it to the top, or even skip this step altogether.
Lastly, I loaded the messages into the jar in order, putting #33 on the bottom, all the way to #1 at the top. Though now that I think about it, it would have made more sense to put the numbers in reverse, so that it would be easier for her to know immediately how many days were left.
I can unequivocally state that the Waiting Jar was a huge success, and truly made the wait to see her boyfriend easier for her to handle. She even took her favorite quotes and stuck them up on her bulletin board in her room! Below are 36 days worth of countdown calendar day templates that you can print and hand write your own messages for whatever your countdown occasion may be.
And in case you were wondering – yes, the boyfriend is still around! We’re both pretty pleased about that!