Updating Holiday Traditions for Teenagers
Research has shown that the maintenance of family traditions is far more important to children of all ages than most parents realize. Despite their eye-rolling, teens gain a sense of belonging through family rituals that make them part of a clearly defined unit. Simple things – such as sharing a special meal or wearing a holiday outfit or watching a specific movie – can create lasting memories.
Although traditions are very important to maintain, they must also be flexible. Changing family dynamics, such as divorce or the loss of a loved one, might make an old tradition feel too painful to do for one person or extra important to maintain for another person. The changing ages of family members also require old traditions to be retired or adapt to kids’ increasing maturity and changing interests, or for new traditions to be established.
In this blog, we will discuss the benefits of traditions, how to approach updating your old traditions, and suggestions for new traditions that teens like:
Benefits of Traditions
Research has proven that family and holiday traditions actually provide some very important benefits to teenagers, including:
- A sense of belonging and connection
- Fun memories
- A sense of security (especially true during periods of change, such as divorce, illness, deployments, death, or other times of loss)
- Positive interaction between siblings
- Understanding of family values and beliefs
- A sense of identity
So, regardless of a teen’s outward reaction, family traditions can eliminate alienation and instability, and instill a strong sense of identity and belonging that your adolescent needs.
Update Old Traditions
Every individual is different in what types of traditions they enjoy, so take the time to talk to your teen(s) and ask for their input. You might think visiting Santa at the mall or hanging a stocking is too young for your maturing teen only to discover it’s one of their favorite things about the holiday. Find out which traditions matter to your teen(s) and let them help you decide which old traditions need to be kept and which can be retired. If they want to get rid of a tradition that you feel is important to keep, then encourage them to find ways to improve it. If they don’t like who is coming to your party, allow them to invite a few friends. If they don’t like a special holiday meal, ask them to make their favorite side dish.
Ideas for New Traditions that Appeal to Teens
One of the best ways to ensure the success of your family traditions is to allow your teen to have input. When contemplating new traditions, think outside the box and consider your teen’s interests and individuality. Throw out some ideas and see what gets your teen interested. Offer suggestions, but listen to their ideas with an open mind. Teens often have unusual and creative ideas. Together, you may come up with something wonderful!
Here are some ideas for fun holiday traditions that you could suggest:
- Decorating contest. Each family member decorates their room or door for the holidays and then take a vote to see whose is the most creative. You can ask a neighbor to be a judge if you need an impartial vote.
- Silly Secret Santa. Start a gag gift tradition. Draw names and everyone must give a funny gift to a family member.
- Game day. Have a friendly competition when the family gathers for their special holiday. You could host a game of touch football or ultimate Frisbee or a board game marathon.
- Cocoa party. Invite your teen’s friends over for a “Hot Chocolate Bar.” Set up different cocoa mixes, as well as fun toppings or add-ins, such as jars of marshmallows, sprinkles, candy canes, and whipped cream.
- Speed shop. For those families that stuff stockings at the holidays, create a hilarious tradition. Take the entire family to the Dollar Store or some other discount retailer. Give everyone one stocking (not their own), set a timer for 15 minutes, and then everyone rushes off to find unique, funny gifts to stuff each other’s stocking.
- Showtime. See a local production of ‘The Nutcracker,’ ‘A Christmas Carol,’ or another holiday-themed show.
- Cookies. Host a cookie-baking or gingerbread village decorating party for your neighbors or teen’s friends. Make this tradition even better by delivering cookies to neighbors, a nursing home, or the local police or fire station.
- Unusual meal. Come up with a unique family meal over the holidays, such as a three-course fondue feast.
- Drive-by lights. Have everyone jump in the family car to check out the holiday lights in your area, while playing holiday music and drinking cocoa.
- Caroling. For musical teens, gather a handful of friends together and go caroling, or sit around the fire and sing songs together.
- Volunteer together. 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 all at the same time is to volunteer together. Serving others reminds teens that the holiday season is not only about receiving but also giving. Ideas could be:
- Organize a food or coat drive.
- Make and serve food together at a local soup kitchen.
- Ask your teen to shop with their own money for a teen on an Angel Tree.
- 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 to your friends and neighbors 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.
Traditions are not only important for creating and preserving childhood memories, they are also important because they create a unique setting for some great quality time with family that you may not normally get and because they represent stability and continuity for families. Traditions are something you can count on and often look forward to. Regardless of your religion or the set of beliefs that you hold, traditions can, and should, be part of your family.