Teens and Holiday Traditions
When our kids were young, Christmas was fast and furious. For a stay at home mom, it took all my energy to decorate and get presents under the tree on a tight budget. The year we moved into a new house, I didn’t put up a Christmas tree. With four kids under the age of eight, I figured as long as they had presents, would they really care about a Christmas tree?
The next year at Christmas, I mentioned the no-tree idea again. My husband adamantly said, “The kids need a tree.” His words were a wake-up call for a tired, exhausted mom. Now that we have a middle schooler, a high schooler and college kids, I’m reminded how holiday traditions have bridged the nine-year age gap between our kids. Here are ten things I’ve learned about the importance of holiday traditions for families with tweens and teens:
1. Traditions provide opportunities for teens to be leaders in the family. Allowing a teen to be in charge of a specific tradition or using their creativity develops leadership, confidence and accomplishment for a teen within the family unit.
2. Traditions provide interaction between siblings. Teens naturally don’t spend a lot of time with younger siblings. Holiday traditions provide opportunities for families to engage with each other when they otherwise wouldn’t.
3. Traditions build memories that bond siblings together as they grow into the teen and young adult years. When our college kids are home for Christmas, they talk and laugh with their siblings about things they did together during past holidays. Family memories around holiday traditions become meaningful as kids leave for college and become adults.
4. Traditions provide a family connection no matter what the family has been through. There’s intrinsic value in holiday traditions because it draws people together in meaningful ways despite hardships or pain. When a family has suffered loss or hurt throughout the year, engaging in holiday traditions can give peace and comfort despite the hurt.
5. Traditions provide stability for teens when their life and emotions feel out of control. The consistency of something known and established brings stability to a teen’s chaotic emotions, relationships, or behavior.
6. Traditions provide identity and belonging for teens while they’re separating from parents. As adolescents find their identity, they can feel removed from their family or their family’s values. Holiday traditions tell a teen that he or she is still part of the family even though their choices or beliefs might be different.
7. Traditions invest in the developing belief systems of a teen and young adult. Many holiday traditions develop out of cultural, spiritual, or religious beliefs. Traditions provide an opportunity for teens to think about the values or culture they’re raised in. Traditions also allow teens to have conversations with adults about important subjects that may not be addressed at other times of the year.
8. Traditions create roots for teens and young adults in an increasingly transient world. There’s something about going to Grandma’s house or getting together with extended family that speaks truth and strength into a teen whose world otherwise seems scattered, impersonal and fast-paced.
9. Traditions give college students a sense of “home” during their transition of living away from home. Nineteen and twenty-year-olds encounter a lot of changes during college and coming “home” provides stability and encouragement during the transitional college years.
10. Traditions provide stability to teens whose family may be changing due to deployment, divorce, grief or illness. Change and loss can make the holidays difficult for families, especially during difficult family experiences. Celebrating a yearly holiday tradition gives hope that life still continues even in the midst of pain, loss, and change.
What are your meaningful holiday traditions and the lessons behind them? We’d love to hear about them!
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