Be prepared for holidays with teens
When we think of the holidays, we think of great food, inspiring music, and, of course, family. If you are a family with a teenager, you may have noticed that getting the family side of things to have meaning for them can be challenging. When we look back on the holiday season, at times it may feel like our intimate family time, especially with our teenagers, just wasn’t apparent. Yes, we entertained, created feasts and may even have participated in a caroling party, but did we really have meaningful family time? Was our teenager even present for those moments? I am talking about time that builds memories, creates bonds, supports and enriches our lives and the lives of our children.So how does a family prepare for the holidays? How do they keep the connection with their teenager alive when they are so busy with other things? Maybe if we take a glimpse into the heart of a teenager, we can find the answer.First, friends are a vital part of a teenager’s life, and we need to respect those relationships. It is very important that teens figure out how to balance their personal life with their family. It is our job, as parents, to help teach that lesson. We teach it best by hearing their thoughts and making compromises that work for the whole family. Secondly, recognize that teens have thoughts, ideas and beliefs of their own. They want to be valued and respected for these, and they want to be heard. Our job is to allow them to share their ideas and incorporate them into our family traditions, if that idea will benefit the family. I will never forget when that played out in our family with our oldest daughter. She was a junior in high school at the time, and prom season was upon us. We usually had a bonfire and breakfast after prom for her group of friends. However, this particular year, prom happened to be on Holy Saturday, Sunday was Easter. We had a decision to make. From our perspective, the decision was easy, no prom. From her perspective, the decision was also easy, no Easter. OK, obviously we had some work to do. Our first priority was to our family as a whole. How could we still make Easter a holy, spiritual day for our family without leaving our daughter in the dust, or worse yet, destroying the whole idea of “family traditions?” It came down to having some communication about what was most important for both sides. For us, it was that we attend church Easter Sunday as a family. For her, it was that she was allowed to go to prom. Our compromise was that she could go to an abbreviated prom and still attend church the next day with us, as a family. A few of her friends did spend the night, and not only did they attend church (a later service) with us Easter morning, they actually spent most of the day with us, celebrating our family traditions.And here, my friends, is the greatest lesson: Her friends stayed not because they had to, but because their families had nothing going on that day that was special. They wanted family time, celebrations, and traditions, even if that meant they would spend Easter with a different family. What that means to me is that teens will fight family traditions because of their desire to be independent and their desire to spend time with friends. The mistake we make lies in our fear of losing our teens if we have conflict with them; when in reality we may lose them if we don’t. We need to let them know just how valuable family time is to us. When we act from fear, we have given up our responsibility to our kids to create, for them, a family. Yes, it is about compromise, love and sometimes being the bad guy with our teens.Lori Mueller is a YouthZone program director.
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