Healing Blog

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There is no better time than the holidays to assess your teenager’s life skills. If they had it their way, they’d sleep until 1 pm, hide in their room cozied up to their computer, spend hours on their smartphones, and/or play video games all day. Being a teen can be difficult. Being the parent of a teen can be challenging. Many awkward moments are sometimes had when you combine the two with family and holidays.

Here are the basic issues of surviving holidays with teens: how they dress; how they behave at a family gathering; and how they deal with disappointment, i.e., what they had on their wish lists versus what they got.

All teens try to fit in and belong. How they dress determines their place in their world, but teen fashion trends tend to trigger serious disagreements between parents and offspring. You know the looks you sometimes get from the grandparents and your critical siblings (who probably don’t have children). Maybe the issue becomes how to get your teen to leave behind the ripped, tattered jeans that hang down low enough to reveal their undies, thongs or boxers.

One approach is to suggest to your teen that they might dress in a way that makes them feel confident, safe, smart, creative, or athletic – pick the strongest of these essence traits that you see in your teen. Also, knowing that what you wear tells a story about you as a person, ask them, “What is the story you are trying to tell others with this outfit?” You might have to go through several outfits, but it will be worth it in the long haul. It is a positive way to open up dialogue about why it is important for all people to dress appropriately for certain occasions.

Anti-social behavior can appear at family gatherings when they don’t want to play with their cousin, Joe, or entertain their two-year-old cousin, Sara. They give their grandparents a perfunctory hug and sit in a corner, hoodie over their eyes, headphones in their ears. They only came to this holiday event because it was mandatory and, besides, you wouldn’t let them stay home alone. Okay, we can all identify with feeling uncomfortable in social situations. If they are at a school dance, they hang out (hide) with their friends. But they are alone with all these relatives without a friend in sight.

Ask your young adult to sit with the family for the first 30 minutes and then 15 minutes each hour thereafter. After they have fulfilled their mandatory time, they can do whatever they please as long as they continue to show up for the 15 minutes each succeeding hour. You can make their time easier by identifying a family member who has something in common with your offspring. Did you know that Aunt Suzy is crazy about reading? Did you know that Uncle Allen is an amazing artist? See that man with your Aunt Gina? He still plays league basketball. Your offspring can more easily peek out of that teenaged shell if they know they have a mutual interest for conversation.

Teens can be all about themselves. This is normal. They want a car, the latest iPad, iPhone or Droid. None of these is cheap and, of course, their friends all have them. You decide to give the family a vacation to Cancun for spring break as the main gift. The presents under the tree are the cheapest ones on their lists. The expression on their faces speaks volumes, but this is not a good moment for a lecture on gratitude. Even when we are grownups, disappointment is one of the most difficult emotions.

Instant gratification – that’s the issue here. Your kids wanted digital bling. You opted for an exotic family vacation, knowing that the bling will always be available – but you never know how many years you have together as a family. Carpe Diem – do the family vacation.

However, it is important to acknowledge their disappointment. Share how you handle things when your expectations are not fulfilled. Sulk, pity party, anger? You can relate to them here. Disappointment stinks. You can’t fix it – so don’t try. They aren’t bad kids for feeling let down. Allow them time to deal with their emotions, and after they have processed not getting their favorite presents, offer them a way to earn the gift of their choice in the New Year.

The holidays provide many opportunities to teach your pre-adolescent and teen some important life skills like: When life offers you lemons, make lemonade. This is a great lesson to share with teens. Remember to breathe, keep your sense of humor and your wits about you. Help your teen find their sense of humor. Most of all, remember what life was like when you were that age, when holidays were the best and worst of times.

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This entry was posted on
Tuesday, December 12, 2013 at 23:44 pm and is
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