How To Include Your Challenging Teen During The Holidays

How To Include Your Challenging Teen During The Holidays

The holidays are often portrayed as a time of family togetherness and happy memories, but the reality of parenting a troubled teen can be a very different experience. Your teen may not act interested in the activities and traditions he has participated in since he was little, but sticking to a routine can be comforting and stabilizing for struggling adolescents. Here are a few ways that you can work around your child’s needs and involve the whole family.

Set expectations early

Making sure your teen knows what behavior you expect from her is always important and even more so around the holidays when schedules are off. Rewards and consequences should be clearly stated, even if they are somewhat altered to meet the needs of the holidays.

Be realistic

If you have always made and decorated cookies as a group, you can still have this activity, but remember to be realistic about what level of involvement you expect from your teen. If he is willing to come out of his room or look up from the phone long enough to sit with the family for a while, you can consider this a “win” even if he doesn’t participate like he used to.

Create structure

Consistency is something that all teens need, not just those that are struggling. Create a calendar that includes the activities for the season and display it where it can be seen by the whole family. Try not to fill every evening, but make sure that enough family time is carved out so that your teen knows what to expect each day.

Be understanding

Whether your teen is struggling with depression, substance abuse or defiance, there is a good chance that they feel out of sync with many of their peers and other family members and the holidays can sometimes heighten these feelings. Understand that your child’s symptoms may increase during the season and be prepared to meet her extra needs.


Your teen may not be willing to participate in everything that you have planned, so pick your battles accordingly. For instance, it may be fine if your son would rather stay home than get hot chocolate and look at Christmas lights, but missing the annual party at the Grandparent’s house is non-negotiable.

Acknowledge good behavior

Overpraising your teen every time he participates or reacts positively will send the wrong message, but it is still important to acknowledge when he is able to overcome his current inclinations or attitude. A small note on occasion or a hug and a quick word can convey that you notice and are proud of the effort he is making.

For more information, contact us at Help Your Teen Now

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