Holidays are all about family. Time together is what makes our favorite holidays meaningful. However, they are also difficult. We dream of everyone getting along, and everything going smoothly. Then reality strikes. The key to surviving a holiday with a teenager is to be prepared with this survival guide.
Why are family vacations so stressful?
There are several reasons why family vacations are incredibly stressful. First, everyone is off of their normal schedule and routine. You may deal with jet lag or time zone changes, in addition to chaotic days where no one is sure what to expect.
By the time you get to your vacation destination, you are exhausted. According to Harvard, fatigue or sleep deprivation can trigger feelings of stress and irritability.
Another reason for stress is expectations. Perhaps your vacation destination doesn’t live up to the hype, or family members are not getting along. These situations can trigger disappointment, which leaves you feeling stressed and let down.
How do you deal with a difficult family over the holidays?
You can choose your friends, but you don’t get to choose your family. Families are how we learn to deal with difficult people.
You can deal with this difficulty by avoiding triggering topics. Politics and religion can trigger strong feelings, which can cause rifts in your family.
Changing your mindset is also helpful. Focus on the positive aspects of your get together, and your family members. Remember the things you like and love about them. De-stressing before and during the holiday can help you keep a positive attitude.
Holidays mean you will be around people you find difficult. However, you do choose how much you interact with them. Be polite, but spend the majority of your time with the people you enjoy being with. Minimize your interaction with those who you truly struggle to get along with.
We all have people that we can handle for short amounts of time. They may even be enjoyable when you spend an hour with them, but highly annoying after 4 hours together.
Setting a time limit can help you cope with difficult family members. This keeps the interaction from dragging on forever. It also allows you to know that the situation is temporary. It’s easier to tolerate tough situations when you know when they will end.
Lastly, control yourself. You can’t control your Aunt Susan. You can control how you react to her comment about your weight. Limiting alcohol and practicing tolerance can help you stay in control of your own actions.
How to Survive a Holiday with Teenager
Holidays with teens are difficult for several reasons. You are probably reminiscing about when your teen was younger, and believed in Santa Claus. Your teen, on the other hand, is thinking about the present and the future. They don’t want to be seen as a child, but an adult.
This brings us to our first step to serving a holiday with your teen.
1. Accept That Things Change
Family traditions are valuable, and shouldn’t be discarded. However, you must accept that some things will change when your child becomes a teen.
You must accept that this year will be a little different from years past. You may need to trade an old tradition for a new one, or modify things slightly.
You’ll need to decide what works for your family now. Use the past as your guide, but be open to doing some things differently.
2. Plan Together
When planning your holiday, it’s important to let your teen participate. Perhaps you are planning to travel, or stay at home and invite family over for the holidays.
In either case, there’s plenty of room for planning and negotiation. Teens need to feel that they have some say in what happens. Allowing them to help plan the destination, guest list, or activities.
3. Holiday Wish List
Let everyone create a holiday wish list. This should include the top 5 things they want. Then, you can compile everyone’s wishes into one large list. Be sure that everyone gets at least one of the things from their list during the holiday.
4. Be Clear on Participation
Your teen needs to how what’s expected of them. Do you insist that they attend a Christmas service? Is Thanksgiving dinner with the family mandatory?
Let your teen know what you expect them to participate in, as well as what you consider optional.
Keep in mind that your teen will not want to spend every minute of the holiday with you. This is natural, and you need to accept it. However, they should be willing, if not enthusiastic, about being there for the moments that are most important to you.
5. Set Cell Phone Policy
. It can be tempting to institute a no-cell phone policy, but this may do more harm than good. Your teen likely feels like their phone is their lifeline to the outside world. Taking it away completely can make your teen feel alienated, and ruin everyone’s holiday.
Instead of prohibiting cell phones, consider specifying when they are or are not allowed.
Obviously, you don’t want your teen not being present for important moments because they are scrolling Instagram. However, you may find that they are snapping photos to share the moment with their friends, instead of ignoring you.
You may choose to set limits as to what times your teen can use their phone, or which situations mean a phone is off limits. You may also allow them to take photos with their phone during special times, but not post them or browse the net.
6. Remember What’s Important
One of the most important ways to survive a holiday with your teen is to remember that the time is short. It can be easy to get caught up in wanting perfection or a power struggle.
You may feel that things going your way is more important than anything else, but this isn’t the case. Your relationship with your teen and other family members is much more important than the perfect Christmas card.
Keeping this in mind can help you navigate sticky situations. The holiday season will pass quickly, but the memories you create with your teen, for better or worse, will stay.
7. Be Willing to Compromise
You and your teen will disagree, and you’ll need to be willing to compromise. Know what battles are truly important to you, and which you can concede in good conscience.
Compromise often means that both of you get something you want, and neither of you get everything you want. For example, you want your teen to attend Christmas eve dinner at their grandmothers, but they aren’t thrilled about going.
Instead of insisting that they do exactly as you say, compromise by allowing them to come for a shorter time. You’ll still get the family together, and they will be more pleasant when they are there.
8. Respect Their Opinions and Feelings
As your child gets older, it’s important to give them respect. Their opinions, desires, and feelings matter. This doesn’t always mean that you give them what they want. Sometimes, it simply means that you empathize with them.
You should be willing to discuss things with them. Hear their feelings. Give them your reasons for your choices. “Because I said so” doesn’t work well at any age, but certainly not for teenagers.
9. Bring Friends
Teenagers form very close relationships with their friends. Allowing one or two of their friends to spend some time with them during the holidays gives them something to look forward to.
It also helps to keep them entertained. Few things are worse than a bored teenager. Allow your teen to enjoy some time with their friends, and you may find that everyone is in a better mood.
There’s another upside to this. It shows them that you value their friendships. You’ll also get to know their friends better, which is also important.
10. Give Them Space
Be sure that your teen has space. This may mean getting them their own hotel room on vacation. It may mean that they don’t share a room with family members who come to visit.
In addition to physical space or privacy, your teen needs time to do things they enjoy. Be sure that there’s time in the schedule for them to enjoy themselves in any way they choose, within reason.
The last step to surviving a holiday with a teenager is to relax. This means that you have time to kick back with a glass of wine, rather than overscheduling yourself.
It also means approaching the holidays with a sense of humor. Did you burn the turkey? Did the dog knock down the Christmas tree? Did your teen forget to pick up the milk?
These things may make you feel stressed, or like your holiday is ruined. However, it doesn’t have to be that way. You can simply laugh it off. Some of the best holiday memories are those that occur from mishaps.
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