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Holiday Traditions with Teens: Things Change—You May Like It More

Long gone are the days of my kids watching cartoons and seeing a commercial with a toy that holds the key to their happiness. They no longer scramble to get a piece of paper and try to write it down for their Christmas list.

Holiday Traditions With Teens

Now I have three teens who don’t notice the Christmas wreath I hang or reach into the Advent calendar every morning to fight over who gets the best piece of candy.

Their wish lists consist of expensive electronics I don’t know how to use, strange clothing, and requests for gift cards.

They don’t want to help me wrap presents (although I still make them), they don’t care about the damn Elf on the Shelf (okay, I’m happy about that), and they easily fall asleep on Christmas Eve night—and allow me to sleep in a bit on Christmas morning.

I love it and hate it all at the same time.

The passage of time means our family traditions need to change in order for us (meaning me) to stay well-adjusted. Otherwise, I’d feel like assuming the fetal position when my lovely children don’t care about all the effort it takes to make the holidays feel special.

I’ve changed my ways when it comes to the holidays as my kids have grown older, and I’m better for it.

1. Just buy them what they want—within reason

As our kids get older, they want more expensive things, which means fewer gifts. If my kids want a ski pass or a new phone, that’s what they get. But I don’t worry about the number of presents that are under the tree. As a result, shopping is so much easier, and I now have time to buy myself gifts and stash them under the tree to fill up all the extra space.

2. Say “no” to holiday madness and spend more time together

It’s cemented in our minds that we need to do all the things this time of year, like go to every party and participate in all the school activities because it’s so exciting for our kids. But we don’t. The teen years are when our kids don’t care as much about all the holiday cheer, and we can relax more and enjoy the holiday with them instead of running around trying to get it all done. They will remember being big kids, hanging out with their mom, eating popcorn and watching Christmas movies because she isn’t trying to coerce them to wear matching Christmas pajamas for a posed picture or make min-appetizers for a party.

3. Decorating help is non-negotiable

If you love the decoration aspect of the holidays like I do, enlist your teens to help you. There is nothing wrong with making hard labor a new part of your holiday tradition. This time of year can be about you and your needs, too. If they complain, there’s no shame in reminding them you wrote that Santa letter and moved a plastic doll around every night so they could believe in something that didn’t exist. It’s payback time.

4. Take the long way home

I love going for drives because I can spend time with my kids, and they have no choice because they are contained. Grabbing a hot chocolate and observing the Christmas lights by taking the long way home is something my teens love to do, although they will never admit it.

5. Look at old holiday pictures

Taking a walk down memory lane is a fun way to remind your kids how they used to be during the holidays. It might make you cry and hold you back a bit from all this “moving on,” but it might get your moody teens to smile–and that’s a great gift in itself.

6. Give back

Giving back is great to do at any age, but especially important during the teen years. My kids now have a better understanding of what it means to purchase a gift for someone in need and donate Christmas and Thanksgiving meals. Last year, while dropping off five boxed Thanksgiving meals to the Salvation Army, my kids couldn’t believe all the donated food that was sitting there. They found perspective on how many people can’t afford to buy a turkey dinner.

It is a sad reality that our kids grow out of the holidays, but it is also liberating. You can stop doing certain things for the simple reason no one actually cares anymore if your whole house is lit up and focus on the things that matter to you and your family.

These years have the potential to be even more memorable than holidays of the past. You just have to embrace it.

Katie Bingham-Smith had three kids in three years and crafts herself silly in order to stay sane. She loves to write, wear faux leather pants, eat at burger joints, and make beautiful things. You can see more on her Facebook and Instagram.

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