Christmas with teenagers can be tough. Once they’ve outgrown the Santa magic and want more independence, it can be hard for your teen to feel part of the family festivities.
So how do you include your teen in Christmas, and does it even matter?
We asked a teenager expert for the answers to this most curly of Christmas questions.
Christmas still matters for your teen
The teenage years are when your child is becoming independent. According to psychologist and teen expert, Davina Donovan, it’s normal and healthy that teens’ focus is on friends. But she says it’s important to balance this out with family time even though it’s really challenging to include teens in traditions that aren’t as ‘cool’ as they used to be. Especially when they’re surly and hormonal.
It’s vital that the family comes together at Christmas.”
Davina’s simple solution? Ask your teen what Christmas means to them. Davina says that talking with teenagers about what Christmas means to them, how they want to be involved and if there are new traditions they would like to start is the easiest way to make them feel included.
Why Christmas matters
And it might matter more than you realise! The more quality time teenagers spend with parents at meal times and family occasions, the less likely they are to do drugs, drink alcohol or indulge in illicit behaviour.
But parents often unintentionally disengage with their teens at Christmas time, giving them too much freedom and flexibility to miss important family traditions and time together. Davina tells Mum Central that parents are often busy, under pressure and needing to work, making it hard to spend time with their children. Davina says parents often think teenagers are more resilient than they really are, able to handle things that they are not quite ready for.
It means parents can disconnect and allow teens more freedom when they still need routine, structure and guidance.”
How to Include Your Teenager
Davina tells Mum Central that Christmas is an important time to reconnect and maintain a strong bond with your teenager. Christmas is traditionally a family time and can be a great opportunity to bond as a family. It can also be an important time to keep an eye on your child and involve them in family activities. Teens go from having five days a week of structured school routine to no routine. While it’s nice to have freedom, too much can backfire.
Christmas might seem like a special time for little children – but it still matters even when your children are teenagers.” Davina
So how do you bring the family together to have a happy Christmas? Davina suggests trying these three things.
Involve your teens in Christmas preparations
Giving your teen some festive responsibilities gives the sense that they’re making an important contribution to family life. This could include household jobs, shopping, cooking or helping older or younger members of the family. It’s a nice way to allow your teen more independence and responsibility. It also gives them opportunities to practice and show that they can be responsible.
Find new family traditions
Family Christmas traditions, routines and rituals can help your teen reconnect and reminisce. This might be watching a Christmas movie together, attending carols, sharing a favourite festive meal or enjoying cooking together for Christmas lunch. These might seem like simple things, but can have a big impact. Family traditions make your child feel like they belong. Having worked with many teens with no family traditions, Davina has found that they often say they would love to have a boundary and safe place to go to. Family traditions make your teen feel safe, cared for, surrounded by a family, loved and important.
It’s important to let your teen guide your traditions by asking them what would be a good idea and what they’d like to be involved in. Allowing them more say means they’ll have more buy in. An absolute favourite in Davina’s house is that her family sits around the tree, with one of her three brothers playing Santa. Each present is handed out and everyone watches it being opened, while sharing treats and drinks. The process can take a couple of happy hours!
Spend one on one time
Holidays can be busy, but can also be a great time to spend some quality one-on-one time with your teen. This gives you the chance to reconnect, build your relationship and share thoughts and feelings. It’s also a time to relax and enjoy each other’s company away from the day to day routines. If you can, try to find opportunities for each parent to have time with your teenager. Davina says teens often feel invisible in the home if not given some quality one on one time and attention. It is such a simple but powerful tool. It tells your teen they matter, they matter to you and you hear them. And that you are willing to give your teen your time and attention.
Regardless of the age of your child, one on one time should never be underestimated” Davina
Little children love Christmas for magic, presents and reindeers – but it’s an important time for your teen too. No longer a kid, but not yet an adult, they can find it an awkward time to know where they fit. Taking the time to involve your teen and find ways that make it special for them can help you all have a happy Christmas – and build strong foundations in your relationship as your teen becomes an adult.
We all want a great relationship with our teens – here’s how to navigate it!