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Illustration: Lauren Rebbeck

Help! My Teen is a Holiday Grinch!

As kids age, they may lose interest in your family's holiday traditions. Follow these expert tips to keep the holidays merry, while still respecting your teen's needs.

When our kids were younger, they loved the holidays and the family traditions that went with them. Now that they are in their teens, they aren’t that interested and don’t want to take part in things they used to like decorating, baking, and family dinners. How should my husband and I cope with our feelings while respecting that the kids are growing up?

Lena McCain, owner and therapist at Interfaith Bridge Counseling, PLLC, shares the following tips for parents:

Raising a teenager in the 21st century is complicated, but being a teenager in this day and age? Well, it comes with its own unique set of complexities. Teens are juggling impossible schedules alongside a great deal of expectations, all while trying to understand who they are as individuals and where they belong.

When you mix a teen’s current life experience with the holidays, you’re bound to have a disgruntled teen and disappointed family members. If you have a teen around for the holiday season, here are three concrete steps to ensure both you and your teen’s needs are met:

1. Be Collaborative 

When setting up your holiday traditions and events, make sure to include your teen in the process. Ask them what traditions and events should take place, if they have anyone they’d like to invite to participate, and what tasks they can help with to make the holidays more fun or less stressful. Teens thrive in experiences that value their voices.

2. Be Creative

Be clear with your teen about expecting them to be at scheduled family events. And then, let them choose how they will take part in your family traditions, like helping with setup and cleanup, taking photos of the experience, being physically present but not creating, and so on. Your teen is their own evolving person, which means that how they participate may look different than you had hoped.

3. Be Flexible

Most importantly, express how happy you are that your teen showed up…even if they’re staring at their phone or complaining about being there. Teens have a lot on their plate, and sometimes, the best they can do is give you their physical presence.

Remember, the holidays are about creating family memories, and this includes creating the opportunity for your teen to be whoever they are while being part of your family.

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