How to Manage Holidays with Teenagers
Holidays are here and most of us have mixed feelings during this time of the year, especially when we are planning holidays with teenagers. While we are excited about the memories we are going to create with our loved ones, we may also feel stressed about the responsibilities and pressure that come with all the holiday preparations.
During this season, everything feels so rushed that we forget to pause, breathe and give ourselves a break. The pressure to find the perfect gifts, create the perfect meals and have everyone around us feel good can put a lot of pressure on us. We start operating on an autopilot mode, so we forget to sit back, plan and enjoy this magical time of the year.
As parents, the pressure is even higher. We wish to create beautiful memories with our children, even though they are not as little as they used to be, and offer them the time that they would joyfully look upon years from now. If they are teenagers, the task is even trickier. When planning holidays with teenagers, we need to learn how to integrate them into the family activities while allowing them the space to act upon their newfound independence.
Let’s look at a few ways that can help you create those happy holidays with teenagers:
Your teenager may roll their eyes if you suggest this, but this is the best way to find out what plans they have in mind for the holidays and also to plan family activities together. Listen to them with an open mind and let them know that their plans can be a part of the holidays too. You and your teenager can together set up your respective expectations – You want them to participate in some of the family activities, while they will want some independence and time with their friends. Learn to accept and accommodate their newfound freedom and consider this as a stage where they want to explore the world and family might not be a priority. Look back and remember the way you used to want to do things when you were their age.
When teenagers see their home as a safe space where they are accepted through their changes, they are less likely to rebel against parental authority. They will not have the need to prove you wrong because they will see that you don’t want to be right – you want them to feel loved and you just want to spend time with them during the holidays.
Be empathetic but firm when planning holidays with teenagers
Yes, you heard that right. You can be kind, show compassion and empathy and still be firm in setting boundaries. Instead of forcing your plans on your children for the holidays, tell them what you have in mind, but be open for negotiations. Respect their views, but let them know that the final decision is yours. While their plans are important, they must participate in family events too. Set limits while allowing them their freedom.
Know that they will try to push your boundaries and that is normal. They might even try to manipulate you in changing your plans with silent treatment, anger or resentment. That might make you feel guilty and you may fear that you are spoiling their holidays and you may start rethinking whether what you are doing is right. You may also feel angry at their resentment. Know that you are doing great and keep in mind that they are seeking their identity which is separate from the family. If they don’t want to spend time with the family, it’s not because they love you less. They need some time to adjust and find themselves. We’ve all been through that stage, haven’t we?
Teenagers don’t like it when we set limits or boundaries. They don’t react positively to rules. But keep your focus on the outcome – remind them of the fun they will have during the holidays. Explain to them that setting rules are for their well?being and that you will have peace of mind knowing they are safe and therefore you both can enjoy your holidays equally.
Give respect to get respect
When your teenagers trust you enough to share something personal with you, how you react will pave the way to what they will share with you in the future. Make them feel respected by empathizing and validate their experience, no matter how silly you think it is or how dramatic or boring they may sound. They are reaching out to you, looking for your validation and they will treat you like a friend if you treat them like a friend. Ask them questions when they open up to you. Give suggestions on what they could’ve done better without demeaning their actions. Reassure them that you trust in them and in the person they are becoming. Don’t come across as an authority figure alone, but show them the warmth and love – the person they would model themselves on when they become parents.
Everyone wins in the end
Raising a teen can be challenging but rewarding – it can help you learn and grow at the same time as they do. Allow yourself to not be perfect all the time and take a step back when things feel too intense. Meditate, journal and breathe to make sure you act from your most evolved version and you don’t regress at the same time as your teen does. As parents, we have to learn to distance ourselves from our children’s behaviour and learn it has nothing to do with us.
With patience, awareness, empathy and strong boundaries, holidays with teenagers can be a time of connecting filled with joy and exciting activities that they will cherish later.
If you are looking for help, whether for yourself or a loved one, our psychologists can assist in exploring underlying issues through therapy. Please visit our practitioners’ page to find out more, or call (03) 9820-5577 for an appointment or to make enquiries.
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