7 Ways to Have a Great Thanksgiving with Teens
Thanksgiving is a time to feel grateful, but sometimes gratitude isn’t our first thought when facing holidays with teenagers. Many adults worry how to connect with teens and make it a fun family gathering. Perhaps you are worried how to include fun traditions without treating teens like babies. Certainly, as our children grow up, our holiday celebrations need to grow with them, and traditions must change. Perhaps you fear becoming the target of a teen’s eye-rolling disdain. Teens can definitely put a damper on festivities with their unenthusiastic, surly, or skeptical attitudes. Perhaps you worry they will be completely unresponsive by burying themselves in their favorite electronic device. These are all legitimate concerns, but there are ways to make it a great Thanksgiving despite these challenges.
Here are 7 ways to enjoy Thanksgiving with teenagers:
- Establish realistic expectations.
Teenagers are never going to jump up and down with excitement over anything, so don’t expect them to act as though they enjoy any of the activities you plan for them. Believe it or not, teens are specialists at acting ridiculously bored or annoyed even when they are having a really great time. They appreciate when you make efforts to include them in celebrations – you just might not know it until a couple of years down the road when they fondly recall the event. While you shouldn’t expect your teen to show wild enthusiasm, you can expect your teen to behave respectfully to you and the other guests. Talk to your teen ahead of time about what behavior is and is not okay during the celebration. Be specific. For example, you might give them a limit on how much time they can spend on their electronic devices or you might just request that no phones be brought to the Thanksgiving table.
- Ask them what their favorite dish is and put it on the menu.
Everyone want to feel appreciated. When you take the time to specifically ask your teen what their favorite Thanksgiving dish is and ensure you have it for them, they feel valued. This is probably the simplest way to show them love and gain their appreciation during the holiday.
- Assign a dinner responsibility.
Give your teen one of the Thanksgiving tasks that fits with their skills and interests. If they like baking, ask them to make a dessert. If they are artistic, ask if they will create place cards for all the guests or a centerpiece for the table. If they are a culinary whiz, assign them one dish for the meal to prepare. Even if they are not very gifted with cooking, they can at least help out with washing and cutting vegetables or setting the table.
- Make them a mocktail bartender.
Few teens would be disappointed with being asked to be a bartender over the holiday. Set up a “bar” somewhere outside of the kitchen so they are not in your way. Give your teen several recipes of tasty “mocktails” (non-alcoholic mixed beverages) – there are lots of available recipes online – and have them serve your guests. This will not only keep your teen entertained, it will keep thirsty guests out of your busy kitchen.
- Set up a lawn game.
Ask your teen to be in charge of an outdoor game for your guests. It could be a scavenger hunt for younger kids that your teen sets up and runs. Or it could be setting up games for all ages, such as cornhole, croquet, horseshoes, or touch football.
- Share their favorite pastime – media.
Being online is a normal part of life for the teenage generation. You can show your teen you care about their world by asking them to share their media expertise with your guests. They could create a music playlist, find a historical satire they want to read, or share funny Thanksgiving videos. If your teen is creative and media-savvy, you might suggest ahead of time that they create a family photo movie to play after dinner. If your teen likes to be funny, suggest they look up a bunch of Thanksgiving-themed jokes to share throughout the celebration. If they are more shy, assign them the role of photographer and ask them to capture lots of special moments during Thanksgiving.
- Guide the dinner conversation.
One of the reasons many families struggle at Thanksgiving is that the dinner conversation veers down a negative path. When people bring up politics, old grievances from past holidays, or other negative topics, the mood can become sour quickly. Ask your teen to help you think up some positive conversation starters to enjoy over the meal. Many families ask everyone to say something they are grateful for, but you can also be more creative than that. You might ask, what’s the craziest thing that has ever happened to you, or what’s your favorite Thanksgiving memory as a child? These are especially interesting topics when you have elderly guests with you, and you might be surprised at how much your teen enjoys hearing these types of stories from grandparents.
With a little planning, consideration and appropriate expectations, this Thanksgiving with your teen can be a holiday you are grateful for. Talk to your teen ahead of time and offer some of these ideas to see which ones appeal most to them. Finally, if you feel like your teen is behaving badly during Thanksgiving, remember to pull them aside quietly and talk to them about it in private. Teens are extremely sensitive and easily embarrassed during adolescence. They will respond must more favorably if they don’t feel like they have to save face.
Middle Earth wishes you and your loved ones a very Happy Thanksgiving!