December 14, 2015 by middleearthnj
As children grow older, it is all too easy to give up on holiday traditions. Everyone’s busy schedule is crammed with extra to-do lists, parents tend to be feeling a little tired from the pressure, and teens can be less-than-enthusiastic participants in family activities.
But, we encourage you to not give up on holiday traditions for two main reasons! First, studies show that family traditions are actually very important to teenagers. Second, we have some ideas for traditions that will not receive the “eye-roll” from your adolescent.
Benefits of Traditions
Family and holiday traditions actually provide some very important benefits to teenagers, including:
- A sense of belonging and connection
- Fun memories
- A sense of security (especially true during periods of change, such as divorce, illness, deployments, death, or other times of loss)
- Interaction between siblings
- Understanding of family values and beliefs
- A sense of identity
So, regardless of a teen’s outward reaction, family traditions can eliminate alienation and instability, and instill a strong sense of identity and belonging that your adolescent needs. However, traditions must evolve and adapt to kids’ changing interests. What you did with your 8-year-old is not going to be fun for your 16-year-old.
Ideas for Holiday Traditions that Appeal to Teens
One of the best ways to ensure the success of your family traditions is to allow your teen to have some input. Offer suggestions, but listen to their ideas with an open mind. Together, you may come up with something wonderful! If they complain about a tradition you feel is important to keep, then encourage them to find ways to improve it. If they don’t like who is coming to your party, allow them to invite a few friends. If they don’t like a special holiday meal, ask them to make their favorite side dish.
Here are some ideas for fun holiday traditions that even the grumpiest youth may enjoy:
- Have your own decorating contest. Each family member decorates their room for the holidays and then take a vote to see whose is the most creative. You can ask a neighbor to be a judge if you need an impartial vote.
- Have a friendly competition when the family gathers for their special holiday. You could host a game of touch football or ultimate Frisbee or a board game marathon.
- Invite your teen’s friends over for a “Hot Chocolate Bar.” Set up different cocoa mixes, as well as fun toppings or add-ins, such as jars of marshmallows, sprinkles, candy canes, and whipped cream.
- For those families that stuff stockings at the holidays, create a hilarious tradition. Take the entire family to Kmart, the Dollar Store, or some other discount retailer. Give everyone one stocking (not their own), set a timer for 15 minutes, and then everyone rushes off to find unique, funny gifts to stuff each other’s stocking.
- See a local production of ‘The Nutcracker,’ ‘A Christmas Carol,’ or another holiday-themed show.
- Host a cookie-baking or gingerbread village decorating party for your neighbors or teen’s friends. Make this tradition even better by delivering cookies to neighbors or the local police or fire station.
- Have everyone jump in the family car to check out the holiday lights in your area, while playing holiday music.
- For musical teens, gather a handful of friends together and go caroling, or sit around the fire and sing songs together.
- Volunteer your time as a family at a soup kitchen or a food bank that hands out food to families in need.
- Draw names in your immediate family and make a gift for that person. It can be as easy as a music playlist or a photobook of your family’s greatest moments of the year.
- Start a gag gift tradition. Draw names and everyone must give a funny gift to a family member.
- Enjoy a favorite holiday movie together.
Traditions are not only important for creating and preserving childhood memories, they are also important because they create a unique setting for some great quality time with family that you may not normally get and because they represent stability and continuity for families. Traditions are something you can count on and often look forward to. Regardless of your religion or the set of beliefs that you hold, traditions can, and should, be part of your family.