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5 New Holiday Traditions For Families That Teens Might Actually Enjoy

Are your teenagers rolling their eyes at — or outright rejecting — the same traditions they loved when they were younger? It might be time for an update some of your holiday traditions.

Holiday traditions are important because they “reaffirm the personal connections that we have and protect us from the terrible, difficult life circumstances that we may encounter,” says Dr. James Wellborn, psychologist and author of Raising Teens in the 21st Century. “So it’s really worth thinking about the kind of traditions that you want to create for your family.”

Teen-tested: Creating 5 New Holiday Traditions

1. Creative thinking: 

“I bought wool and knitting needles for our annual Chanukah celebration,” says one mom. “Grandmas were casting on stitches for grandkids. It was quite wonderful. And my nieces started a knitting group as a result of that evening.”

One family’s holiday traditions is to exchange funny gifts with each other, each one decorated with a hand-written poem. “It’s a whole evening,” says their mom. “We eat, we drink, we laugh and have so much fun.” The verse is supposed to give a clue to the inexpensive gift inside. One example: a beeping key locator for a teen who is constantly misplacing his keys with a humorous poem about the habit to match. “It’s great for teens who don’t have a lot of money because it’s not how much they spend,” adds the mom, “but rather the thought behind the gift and how clever the poem is.”

2. Change the menu: 

One family decided to spend less time in the kitchen by canceling their annual turkey and making hamburgers with toppings instead. On Christmas Day, when teens had time and inclination, they helped to plan, cook, and serve dinner.

3. Puzzling fun: 

Every year, my family’s grandma would break open a 1,000- to 2,000-piece jigsaw puzzle. As grandkids helped to navigate the pieces into place, they would talk and discuss the past year and what was on tap for the next. (Even after grandma passed away, the grown-up grandkids each chose a puzzle that would call up memories of these special times.)

4. Widening the circle:

Open up family time to friends and outsiders, especially those who don’t celebrate your particular holiday. Our own family loved to invite our teens’ friends who were Jewish or Muslim to share Christmas traditions. Guests enjoyed stirring wishes into the pudding batter, decorating place cards for the table, and playing board games. As psychologist Dr. Robin Alter, says, “Everyone is a little bit happier, and on a little bit better behavior. And it’s a nice way of sharing family pride.”

5. Getting competitive:

Some teenagers love a competition and if that’s your crew why not start this year? It could be a game of touch football or ultimate frisbee, going for a family run or bike ride, a hike up (first to the top wins … ) or even a video game contest.

Kate Pocock

Kate Pocock is a freelance writer based in Toronto, Canada. Read more of her work—including for National Geographic, Fodors, and others — at familytravelink.com.