Try These Enjoyable Thanksgiving Traditions for Teens

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 and create lasting memories.

While we often focus on creating traditions for December holidays, Thanksgiving can offer some good possibilities. Studies consistently show that people who are grateful or thankful are happier, more satisfied, and healthier overall in their lives than people who are not, so why not develop some family traditions that increase our thankfulness.

Here are some tradition ideas for Thanksgiving that will please many teenagers:

Participate in a Turkey Trot.

Many locations host Turkey Trots – usually a 1-mile or 5K fun run – on Thanksgiving morning. Some participants dress up in silly, themed costumes. This is a fun and healthy way to start your Thanksgiving that many teens can appreciate.

Assign a dinner responsibility.

Give your teen a Thanksgiving task 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, ask them to come up with one dish for the meal to prepare. If they love small kids, ask them to develop a Fall scavenger hunt for your littlest guests. If they love games, ask them to prepare a family-friendly game for all the guests to enjoy.

Make your teen 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 there are so many delicious fall flavors that taste great in drinks.

Gather appreciations.

The true meaning of Thanksgiving is gratitude, so why not have everyone share what they are thankful for? Ask your teen to brainstorm and implement an appreciation activity. For example, they could cover the table in butcher paper, dole out black sharpies and ask everyone to write one thing for which they are grateful. Or they might reach out to extended family before Thanksgiving asking everybody to share one thing they love or respect about each family member. Your teen can compile all of the compliments in one document for each family to share on Thanksgiving day.

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 is to volunteer together. Helping others before or after Thanksgiving can be very fulfilling, and if you can show your teen through example how enriching it is, they’ll start to make an association between helping someone else and their own joy. Service projects can help youth develop empathy for others and realize how fortunate they are in comparison. There are lots of service projects available to teens, including: serving meals at a homeless shelter, hosting a themed event for young kids at the local library; holding a collection (such as canned goods for the food bank); caring for animals at the shelter; cleaning park trails; or sending care packages to troops or sick children.

Research shows several benefits for teens who engage in community service. Volunteering helps teens to: feel valued and empowered; perform better in school; have higher self-esteem and more resiliency; be 50 percent less likely to smoke, drink or do drugs; gain new skills desired in the job market, such as leadership, decision-making and communication skills; and build their college resume.

Final Thoughts…

It’s important that we make our best effort to make the holidays a happy event, but also to keep 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. Teens excel at acting 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.

From everyone here at Middle Earth, we wish you and your loved ones a very happy Thanksgiving!

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