Making Your Holiday with Your Teen More Peaceful

As the holidays approach, many of us feel a mixture of excitement and anxiety. While holidays have the potential for fun and special memories, they also have the potential for stress and family conflict that can take the joy out of the season. If one of the reasons for your holiday anxiety is because you dread your teen’s possible behavior, then you need to prepare now to create a happier holiday with them. There is a way to keep the power struggles, poor attitude, or conflicts with your teenager to a minimum in order to have a more peaceful environment at home.

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 more peaceful tone 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. Respect the fact that your teen may not get in the holiday spirit in the same way that you do. If you force them to listen to your Christmas music or shop ’til they drop, you’ll risk making the holiday season miserable for everyone involved. Instead, if you incorporate some of their ideas into the holiday season, they’ll likely be more invested in family time.

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

  • 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. The key is to incorporate everyone’s ideas into the holiday season. 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 and respectful attitude at those events.
    • Prioritize their social time, too. Your teen’s frustration about the holiday gathering at grandma’s house might not be because it’s a family gathering. Instead, their irritability might be due to the fact that grandma’s party is at the exact same time as the basketball game they wanted to attend with their friends. Your teen might be happy to visit grandma earlier as long as they know they can still go out with their friends later.
    • 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.
    • 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. Read our blog from last week, Updating Holiday Traditions for Teenagers.
    • Improve traveling. If your teen hates having to travel every single holiday, consider hosting celebrations at your house every other year. 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. Try to do everything in moderation. Too much of anything – whether its togetherness, boredom, relatives, downtime, etc. – creates disagreeable teens. Instead, find a balance.
  • 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 life 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 peaceful holiday experience for all of you!

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