How to Engage your Teen in the Christmas Festivities
When you think of Christmas you may imagine, snow, glitter, ribbons and bows, and sparkling lights, but the whole fantasy can come crashing down when you encounter even a smidge of teen angst. What used to be a fun tradition might be ruined by a heavy sigh and eye rolling. Your teen may seem to be trying to be difficult, but patience and grace can help you to understand that Christmas may not be as fun for them as it used to be.
Christmas time is magical, from the food and traditions to the cold weather and the promise of a new year soon. For small children, it can also be a fun time of experiencing the childlike wonder at the thought of a snow day or the expectation of a Christmas Eve visit from Santa, and for parents, the sentiment is the same only from a bird’s eye view observing. Once again though, like in many other instances, being a teen can be awkward. The juxtaposition of being too old for Santa and too young to really enjoy vicariously through the little ones can be harrowing. Christmas magic may feel like it is in short supply during this stage of life but there are still many ways to help your teen reconnect with the magic of the season and make them feel more involved in the festivities.
Have a discussion at the beginning of the season about what they like and don’t like about Christmas and which traditions they want to keep going, which ones are too stressful that they want to take a break from, and which ones they might be interested in trying out to see if they want to add them to your list of things to do around the holidays.
Keep the magic alive
While your teen may be too old for Santa and all that, they can still be excited about surprises. Many families transition from waiting until Christmas Eve to put presents under the tree to put them under the tree as they are purchased, leading your teen to have time to make guesses about what they’re getting. While it might be fun to make guesses at first, it can also lead to a feeling of boredom and staring at wrapped presents for days on end may make them eventually seem mundane. Of course, they’ll always be excited to open them and be thankful for what they’ve received, but why short them on the mystery of Christmas by putting the presents out too early?
If they have younger siblings or even cousins, ask them if they’d like to write and send some letters from elves or other characters through the mail. Letting them be creative and experience the reaction their letter or card gets can be a fun way to transition into a more mature Christmas experience. Besides, aren’t you tired of coming up with places to hide the Elf on the shelf and the constant pressure to find new fun situations to pose him in? Delegate some of those tasks to your teen, showing them that you trust their instincts and letting them really be involved in the fun.
Let them plan some things
Teens are growing into young adults and it only makes sense to start giving them more freedom and time to practice their social skills. Letting your teen be in charge of the playlist for Christmas can be a great way to let them show you their tech skills and share with you their creativity. Consider allowing them to invite a few friends over for a social session of making gingerbread houses or having a movie night with hot cocoa. Get on the net together to find fun ideas that your teen wants to try, like having a hot cocoa buffet so that their friends can customize their cocoa with different types of mix-ins.
Having a white elephant exchange with friends is a great way to spend an afternoon and get your teen excited about the holidays. Set a small budget for each person, maybe $5 per gift, and let them come and play a gift exchange game.
Crafting can be a lot of fun for teens, giving them time to wind down from the stresses of finals and other obligations while also allowing them to be creative and letting their mind wander into the fun parts of life. Whether your teen wants to help make decorations for the house or craft presents for relatives, taking the time to set up a crafting area free from distractions is a must. Nobody wants to be the recipient of a toddler’s glitter explosion, so consider having a separate crafting time for your teen after the family session, perhaps while the littles are napping.
Another fun activity might be to make ugly sweaters together. Let them pick a plain sweater and then find materials at the craft store to attach to it. This is an activity that most of the family can be involved in, and a fun twist might be to make sweaters for each other and then wear them together to an event or party.
Spend some time with them
While it is tempting to make Christmas all about the little, take some time just with you and your teen at something just for you two. Whether it’s something active like a winter hike, a visit to the ice rink, or even sledding or something more low key like a nice dinner and a movie, spending time with your teen that’s focused on them alone can help make this season brighter.
You don’t have to spend money or leave the house for this one though, dig back into old traditions that they enjoyed and give them a more grown-up spin. Teens are old enough to help with the baking part of Christmas cookies, but they might also want to do some non-traditional decorating that speaks more to their personal style.
You and your teen may find your own activities to do that are more suited for your lifestyle and interests, like going through your local Christmas village and taking pictures for social media or creating a Christmas scavenger hunt for others to engage in. Whatever you do, make sure your teen knows that you want to make their holidays just as fun as everyone else’s and that you love them.