The holidays are a time for family, gratitude, and goodwill towards all. Problem is, if you have a troubled teen in the house, you likely have a good deal of disruption already on your hands. It can make the approaching holidays more stressful as you try to figure out how to cope with your struggling teen.
Help Your Teen Now has worked with many families who have children attending a residential treatment center for troubled teens who come home for the holidays. Because of this, we wanted to share our advice on ways you can handle your troubled teens over the holiday season.
Be Prepared For Issues To Become Worse Over Holidays
Many adults struggle with their mental health over the holiday season, so it only makes sense that teens with mental health issues will often struggle over the holidays.
Some of the difficulty is due to the changes in the weather, less available sunlight, and the higher amount of sickness that happens over the winter. Also, as the people around your teen become more stressed about the holidays, it is likely that your teen will sense that stress, and it will feed into your teenager’s own struggles.
While you can’t control most of these factors, understanding the extra pressure your teen is under can help you remain more patient with them.
Set Ground Rules, Expectations, And Consequences
Before the whole family is plunged into reunions, holiday parties, and other celebrations, be sure that you lay out ground rules, expectations, and consequences for your troubled teen.
For example, say your family is traveling to your parents’ home to spend Thanksgiving weekend there. You may want to set clear rules about foul language and being polite to grandparents, and outline that rudeness and profanity will result in extra chores, removal of smartphone privileges, or other consequences you can enact while away from home.
Otherwise, if all the consequences take place later at home, your teen may decide that acting out is worth the risk. Also, with delayed consequences, sometimes teens may hope to wait for you to forget to enforce your edicts.
Being in a different place with a lot going on can throw off the best-behaved teen, so for your teenager who is already struggling, more guidance and structure is key to happier holidays.
Give Your Teen Safe Outlets
Even at troubled teen behavior modification programs, there is a certain amount of loosening up for the holidays. So, while you provide your troubled teen with structure this holiday season, be sure to build in some safe outlets for your teen to relax and unwind.
The holidays can be stressful for everyone, and without safe ways to relieve their stress, troubled teens are more likely to act out. Some safe outlets you may want to consider for your teen are:
- Quiet time in their room – To help your teen avoid becoming overwhelmed, make spending quiet time in their room an option. You can set a reasonable time limit, such as 15-25 minutes in their room, then they have to come out for at least 45 minutes. That way, you can provide your teen with an acceptable escape while ensuring that your teen doesn’t spend the holidays in their room.
- Have a friend or two over – For more introverted troubled teens, having lots of extended family members over during the holidays can be overwhelming. Allowing your teen to invite a friend or two over for at least part of the holiday vacation can go a long way to make your teen more comfortable and likely to behave to ensure their friend can stay.
- Leave some free time for hangouts – It can be tempting to schedule the holidays to ensure that everyone is on the same page. However, it would be better if you left some free time for your teen to go and spend a few hours with their friends. Even if your family is out of town for the holidays, allowing your teen to go out with their cousins to a movie or another easy activity is a safe way to let your teen escape the hustle and bustle of the holidays.
- Set up a code phrase – If your teen struggles with their emotional control, family holiday celebrations can be torturous. Rather than have your teen explode at a cousin or act out, set up a way for them to ask you to help defuse the situation with a code phrase. With your teen knowing that you are on their side and ready to help can help your teen keep their cool.
By considering these things before the holidays are in full swing, there is a higher likelihood that your whole family can enjoy the celebratory season together.
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