Positive Compromises with Your Teen for the Holidays

CB103947How are you feeling about this year’s holidays? The majority of us feel a mixture of excitement and anxiety. Everyone, including teens, are eager to have pleasant, memorable holidays, but somehow stress and family conflict can creep in and take the joy out of the season. If one of the reasons for your holiday anxiety is because you dread the power struggles, poor attitude, or conflicts with your teenager, then you need to prepare now to create a happier holiday.

Reasons for Holiday Difficulties with Teens

The primary conflicts that parents and teens experience over the holidays are:

  • Disagreements about how the teen should spend his or her vacation time
  • A teenager’s reluctance to visit relatives or participate in family gatherings
  • The condescending or negative attitude teens often develop about participating in holiday traditions that they once enjoyed

Adults may be quick to accuse their teenager of trying to ruin the holiday, but that is rarely the case. Teens are under a lot of stress, face hectic schedules, and struggle to define themselves and their place in the family. Additionally, the holidays can be one of the most obvious signs for a teen that they are no longer a child. They often feel disappointed that the holidays are not the same as when they were children or that the holidays have lost some of the magic. Other teens rebel against holiday traditions because old family routines can seem annoying, silly or pointless.

Compromise is the Solution

When faced with a grumpy teen, parents can force, bribe and threaten their teen through the holidays, or they can sit down together at the beginning of the season and strike some compromises that will create a positive holiday for the whole family.

The idea of a holiday compromise is that both parents and teens give something and get something in return. That means that everyone must accept that the holidays will not look the same as in previous years, but hopefully can still be enjoyable.

We have provided you with some ideas to begin the compromise process:

  • Sit down with your teen before all of the holiday craziness begins. Do not wait until your teen has already had an emotional outburst.
  • Each person – first the teen, then the parent – expresses what is most important to them during the holidays. For example, the teen might say time with friends and the parent might say time with relatives. Everyone must show respect during this process. No one should judge or comment on what each other says – just listen to each person’s desires.
  • Once each person has explained their holiday wishes, it’s time now to practice negotiating. Understanding what is most important to everyone involved, each person must give a little to get a little. Here are some ideas:
    • Alternate obligations. If you have 4 family commitments during the holiday season, ask your teen to only go to two of them that are most important to you. In return, your teen should agree to participate with a positive attitude and be respectful at those events.
    • Alternate relatives. If you have a lot of family, or you’re dealing with a divorce situation, trying to decide who to see, and when, can be very stressful. Taking turns is an easy solution. If you see one group in November, see the other in December, or alternate years. Then you can eventually see everybody and everyone’s stress level, especially your teen’s, is reduced.
    • Revamp traditions. Your teen may have outgrown some of your holiday traditions. The point of a family tradition is to strengthen the bonds in your family – if that’s not happening, you need to let go of the past and find new ways to connect. Spend a little time brainstorming how to freshen up your family’s traditions to respect your child’s developing maturity.
    • Host celebrations. If your teen hates having to travel every single holiday, consider hosting celebrations at your house every other year. In return, your teen must agree to help you clean up and prepare for the guests.
    • Make travel more appealing. If you must travel during the holidays, add a fun day to the trip, such as a stop for skiing, shopping, or a place that your teen would like to go.
    • Invite a friend. Having someone his or her own age around can make holiday events bearable and even enjoyable for a teen. Let your teen bring a friend to one of your family gatherings.
    • Develop a schedule. Too much togetherness with too much idle time creates boredom, and bored teens are not a good recipe for peace. Instead, ask your teen to come up with ideas for a couple of special things that he or she would like to do over the holiday. You agree to make those happen if in return your teen will take care of a list of tasks during vacation, such as wrapping presents, cleaning their room, doing laundry, etc.
  • As you negotiate, each person may state concerns with each other’s suggestions, and then, both teen and parents should brainstorm possible solutions.
  • If you still cannot reach an agreement, take a break. Sometimes having time to reflect on each other’s perspective can bring a new solution to mind. Get back together in a couple of days and try again.

The great thing about this approach is that it teaches teens the important relationship skill of negotiation, demonstrates respect, and ensures a teen’s buy-in to the final solution because they helped to create it. Teens are much more agreeable when they have input into decisions.

Final Thoughts…

Negotiation is an important relationship skill to develop in teenagers. Negotiating reduces adolescent/parent power struggles and allows a gradual and safe way to begin shifting power from parents to the teen, a necessary step towards responsible adulthood. Don’t be surprised if you feel disappointed when your teen chooses to abandon the neighborhood holiday party to have a holiday meal with a friend’s family. Changes are never easy, but you’ll reduce conflict and create a much more positive holiday experience for all of you!

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