It’s the time of year when kids are creating their lists and checking them twice. Streets are filled with decorations, holiday specials are on TV, and children dream of snowy days. That is what I wrote in a December column many years ago. Our children were in elementary school, and our holidays were all about the boys and family time.
Nowadays, our children are old enough to drive, and their priorities are shifting. They still want to spend time with their parents, aunt, uncles, cousins and grandparents, but they also want to spend time with their friends. Although it saddens my wife and me that our teens choose parties with peers over holiday TV specials at home, we have learned to embrace the change.
Successful scheduling is the first step toward making positive seasonal memories with older children. Using a collaborative approach, discuss wants and desires. Consider what events are important to mom and dad, and map out the dates when kids must be available. And specify how long teens must stay, so they can plan accordingly. Knowing expectations allows all to relax, and many teens might even stay longer than anticipated.
Also consider having your son or daughter invite friends to some of the family festivities. Many teens might enjoy including their pals for dessert. For parents, this will keep your kids home a little longer than you thought possible, and your children might even enjoy sharing a favorite cake or family tradition.
Although talking about technology use can be a tired conversation, a gentle reminder before the holiday party begins is recommended. Outline phone-free times, such as no devices at the dinner table, but also don’t be overly rigid. Kids do understand that making in-person connections with family elders is an understood rule, and you can always give your kids a parental stare if they overstep boundaries.
It truly is the season to be jolly, and “spirits” may be in abundance. Parents, however, should never endorse alcohol use when their teens are under the legal drinking age. But the most important rule, without exception, is to make sure your children know it is never acceptable to drink and drive or get in a car with someone who has been doing so. It is more important to call mom, dad or Uber than it is to put oneself at risk.
Life is always hectic. The yuletide season can, however, allow families to take a break from the daily grind and spend time focusing on one another. Make great food, create a cheerful atmosphere and relax. Enjoy your family, but also let your teens enjoy their friends. It truly is the most wonderful time of the year. Happy holidays!
Prior to going into private practice as a psychotherapist and learning-disabilities specialist, Russell Hyken, Ph.D., Ed.S., M.A., LPC, NCC, worked for more than 15 years as an English teacher, school counselor and school administrator. Visit him online at ed-psy.com.
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