Families develop many holiday activities, events and rituals over the years. Some activities become family traditions and others fall by the wayside. As children get older, the schedules and demands of school, jobs and sports may affect their feelings about time-honored family traditions.
One way for parents of teens and preteens to ensure that holiday traditions remain meaningful is to talk with their children about seasonal rituals and identify those that hold value for everyone, as well as those that can be modified or eliminated.
Rebecca Mather, outreach specialist with the University of Wisconsin-Extension, works on parenting education and adolescent development. She offers some suggestions for families rethinking their notions about the holidays.
–Spend less time on holiday rituals and more on shared activities. “Focus less on presents and customs and more on the things you like to do together,” says Mather. For example, plan to set time aside for the family to go bowling or sledding, or to see a movie together.
–Honor traditions that are important to your children. Teens are old enough to have memories of favorite traditions from their childhoods and may still find some traditions comforting in their familiarity. “Talk with your teens about what is most meaningful to them. Work on doing those things and let go of the rest,” says Mather.
–Provide opportunities for your children to invite friends over. “Give kids the space to hang out, make noise and eat plenty of treats,” says Mather. “Before long, your children will have flown the nest. Let them remember their house as a place of hospitality and good feelings so they will want to return often.”
–Remind your children to be sensitive to the needs and traditions of others. Talk with your children about the fact that there are many types of holidays, many ways of celebrating, and many people who feel isolated at this time of year. “This might be the time to reconnect with older neighbors and relatives, or to support the friend who does not celebrate mainstream holidays and to learn more about their traditions and celebrations,” says Mather.
It doesn’t matter if your family decides to keep longstanding holiday traditions, invent new ones or do something in-between—flexibility and good communication with your children is key.
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