The holidays can be a very difficult time for families. In particular, the holidays have the potential to be both emotionally charged and dissonant for families with teenagers. Here is one perspective that may help you through this time.
How you respond matters
We recognize that teenagers can be egocentric and demanding. Sometimes they have unrealistic expectations as they think about all they could get in advantage or gifts. Therefore, they tend to ask for more than they should and demand that they be permitted to change the family rules for the holidays.
Just to “keep the peace,” parents and caregivers may be tempted to overindulge their teenager. (After all, it is the holidays, and maybe you can be generous this time and let her have what she wants.) Unfortunately, this is not a good idea as it really sends your teenager the wrong message.
It is important that parents and caregivers realize that over-giving, over-permissiveness, or removal of boundaries during the holiday season–or almost any time, for that matter–increases insecurity in your teen and can promote conflict.
In fact, most research tells us that when our kids get what they want when they want it, they lose energy, ambition and motivation. Consequently, they do not learn to deal well with their frustrations, and the lack of the ability to do so can lead to even more intense emotion and drama.
Not having but doing
Maybe the most helpful suggestion for families is not so much “what can we give each other,” but “what can we do together for the holidays?”
Rather than give more, loosen the rules or remove the structure, I recommend that you continue to hold to your family traditions. Many wonderful family traditions are born out of the holidays. Some of the best memories you have may stem from childhood. I think talking about or repeating those “together” memories is centering and stabilizing for your teen and family.
The child in us all
A return to childhood memories can be healthy. During the holiday season the child-like side of your teenager can come alive and be quite enjoyable.
As much as your teen will allow, I think it is a great idea to ask him to join you in putting up lights, wrapping gifts, helping with food or decorating the tree. Yes, it is nostalgic, but it provides a deep connection to your family, enriching your family history and legacies.
The holidays are a great time to spend family-time enjoying special memories. Perhaps in so doing, all the requests for “stuff” may turn into a time of meaningful relationships full of all the things we love about our family.
Keep those traditions. Invite your whole family to participate, and spend the holidays making memories. You may be surprised that your teenager is the one who enjoys this time the most…but please do not tell anyone since it is just not very cool! 😉
Gerry Vassar, President and CEO, Lakeside Educational Network
Note: Gerry will resume the CUPS and self-esteem topic after the holidays.