Creating a Fun Holiday with Teens
Everyone wants a pleasant, memorable holiday season, but somehow stress and family conflict can creep in and take the joy out of the celebration. However, there are ways to make the holiday enjoyable with teenagers… it just takes a bit of planning and thought.
Include Teens in the Planning
At the beginning of the holiday season, sit down with your teen to plan the holidays. You can discuss your expectations, but you should also ask your teen what is most important to them during the holiday. Find out their thoughts on activities, presents, and food they might enjoy. You might be surprised at the good ideas your teen has! When you and your teen disagree, negotiate compromises that still allow both of you to have something you want during the holiday. The great thing about this approach is that it teaches teens the important skill of negotiation, demonstrates respect, proves you value their opinions, and ensures a teen’s buy-in to the final solution because they helped to create it.
The maintenance of family traditions is far more important to children of all ages than most parents realize. Regardless of your teen’s outward reaction, studies show that family traditions instill a strong sense of identity and belonging that your adolescent needs. However, traditions must evolve and adapt to kids’ changing interests. What you did with your 8-year-old is not going to be fun for your 16-year-old. Think outside the box and consider your teen’s individual interests and individuality. Throw out some ideas and see what gets your teen interested. You might try these ideas:
- Room decorating contest
- Family fondue meal
- Secret Santa gag-gift exchange
- Cookie decorating with friends
- Stocking stuffing race (give them a stocking, a time and price limit, and set them loose in a store)
- Volunteer together
In the adolescent years, friends are vitally important. Although you may think of holidays as family time, try to find compromises that honor your teen’s desire to spend time with friends. Either include their friends in some of your activities or provide specific guidance on what days you need your teens to be available for family and what days are open for friends or other activities.
One of the very best ways to create a tradition, spend time together as a family, and instill a sense of gratitude in your teenager is to volunteer together. Serving others reminds teens that the holiday season is not only about getting but also giving. Ideas could be:
- Organize a food or coat drive.
- Ask your teen to shop with their own money for a teen on an Angel Tree.
- Bake cookies and deliver them to a local Fire Department or nursing home.
- Participate in a community run or walk that benefits a charity.
- Make Christmas cards to send to troops overseas. Go to Operation Gratitude to learn more.
- Offer a gift-wrapping service and donate the money to a charity.
- Obtain a Gift Catalog from a world charity and go shopping together for items to donate.
- Help an elderly neighbor put up their Christmas decorations.
- Decorate the halls of a hospital.
We highly recommend creating a family tradition of volunteering during the holidays because it can provide many benefits. Traditions create a sense of belonging for teens. Volunteering helps teens to feel valued, empowered, grateful, and confident, while also reducing the likelihood they will engage in risky behaviors. And spending the time together creates special family memories that last a lifetime.