It’s A Tradition: How to Reinvent the Holidays with Teenagers

“Tis the holiday season!  I love this time of year, even though my kids are basically grown.  At ages 18 and 16, the jig is up, the word is out, and the element of surprise is no longer a part of Christmas for them.  

But I still do Santa anyway.  And the Elf on the Shelf.  And the special ornament signifying the past year.  Maybe I am having a hard time putting their childhoods in the past.  Or maybe I still get a kick out of seeing their reactions to all of my surprises.  Regardless, I have been thinking that this year, it might be time to put a little more adult, and a little less kid, into our holiday traditions.

For instance, I want some “on purpose” time with my family, where the four of us do something fun and interactive together.  However, there are a few rules I will follow.  I will get their commitment in advance, set a time limit, and, of course, bribe them with candy.

Here are 9 ideas to kick things off: 

  1. Play a board or card game.  One caveat: the group has to agree on the game.  For instance, we refuse to play Monopoly anymore with my husband.  He shows no mercy and keeps a “lifetime score.”
  2. Go to a secret destination. Load your kids in the car and surprise them with somewhere cool, like the holiday lights at Atlantic Station (stay for dinner and the German Christkindl Market), or check out an upcoming concert at Atlanta Symphony Hall, such as Black Violin.
  3. Spread some love.  Head to your local Target or Wal-Mart, provide each member of your family a gift card and send them off in search for someone in need to give it away.
  4. Let the kids plan something. Kids have great ideas too!  Why not let them plan the family time?  They might actually enjoy it more.
  5. Wear matching pajamas.  I actually don’t think my teens will go for this one, but wouldn’t it be cute?  Maybe with my face on them?
  6. Movie marathon.  This one is easy – there are so many classic movies on this time of year, you can set your DVR to record your favorites, and then hunker down for the night, hopefully in your matching pajamas.
  7. Electronics free day. Or maybe just an afternoon.  Sit around the fire, talk a walk, or wrap presents together, all without screens.  And definitely keep them away from the dinner table.
  8. Volunteer.  Sign up to help cook and serve a meal to the homeless community, or gather up clothes for donation and go together to the drop-off.
  9. Dress up the pets.  Have a decorating contest with your pets; you can assign teams, or if you have a zoo at your house, each person picks an animal to glam up.  If you don’t have pets, have a bedroom door or mini-tree decorating competition instead.

What should be number 10 on this list?  Please share your favorite traditions with your teens below!