Family holiday mealHolidays mean vacation: days where teens are out of school with little to occupy their time and potential for comments of feeling bored. The holiday seasons between Fall and Winter encompass a wide range of cultural and religious themes from Eid, to Yom Kippur and Hanukkah, Christmas to Kwanza. What all of these holidays share is the importance of family. However, a normal part of adolescent development is pulling away from parents and traditional family values. This time of year, parents may hear more requests for gifts than for special traditions at family gatherings. Cooking, cleaning, and anticipating family conflict can cause a lot of pressure for parents and teens.  So how can parents continue to make fond memories and include all household members?

1. Keep things fun.  While you’re wrapping presents or making dinner, ask your teen to put on some of his or her own music while they help you.   Let your teen choose a movie or other activity for the family to do together.   Allowing them to help plan activities will increase their engagement while spending time together.

2. Lay out expectations early.   Before family gatherings, let your teen know what to expect from relatives who they may not see too often (now is also a good time to discuss media and phone use during meals and family activities). Check in at the beginning of winter break with your teen about homework projects that need to be done, and allow dedicated homework time amid social obligations to avoid stress when it’s time to go back to school.  Most important, give praise and positive reinforcement to your teen for good behavior!

3. Encourage giving back and community involvement.  Volunteering is a way for teens to meet new people and expand their horizons, and research shows that teens who volunteer do better in school and have better self esteem–especially if they reflect on their experience by journaling or discussing it with peers or parents.  Check out for ideas.

4. Keep up traditions if they’re important to your family.   Games that used to be fun when your teen was younger may now seem childish to them, or they may feel self-conscious in front of other family members.  Again, discussing ahead of time why these traditions are important to the family, and compromising with your teen to have him or her participate at their comfort level will help make it more enjoyable.

5. Give yourself and your teen time to relax!  You’ll likely be spending more time together than you’re used to, and sometimes you might need a break.  Allow for some quiet time amidst the hustle and bustle to recharge before going on to the next gathering or task.

We wish you all a very happy holiday season and feel free to comment with any other tips  you may have!