Teens are neither children nor adults, living in a world all their own and they like it that way. They have their caves and all their comforts in them. Why, oh why, would they want to spend time anywhere else?
Holiday time is family time. There are a few things we can do to entice teens from their caves to take part in the festivities. Don't expect reluctant teens who have not had years of training in family etiquette to fit in or even wish to remain long, but we owe it to them to try.
Teen boys and teen girls are definitely from different planets, although there will be exceptions to the rule. The best thing to do is bring the teen to the "table" and see what suits them best. Boys may be more likely to respond to those chores which utilize their muscle and macho, such as lifting and carrying, perhaps even peeling potatoes. Tall teens are always eager to get the things on the top shelf, if asked nicely. These little things can go a long way toward making them feel needed and when they feel needed it will be easier to get them involved in other ways too.
The early planning stages of the holidays would be a great opportunity for teens. What foods will we serve? Who will be invited to the gathering?
Teens love to eat, so it makes sense to involve them in food planning and preparation. Let them help create a joint menu and perhaps even ask them to create one menu item to be their own specialty. In exchange for the favor of their company and assistance, allow them to have a "chef's table" and decide who will be seated at it.
Let the "Chef" shop for ingredients on a budget and prepare the dish for the holiday meal or appetizer. This is a wonderful way to teach a teen about shopping on a budget and cooking. Some may already know these things but it can be surprising how many young adults leaving home for college do not even know how to boil water. And let's not forget the cookie and candy making. Teens who love to eat them will certainly enjoy helping create them.
As menus are being prepared, ask teens to consider the holiday do list. This is a good exercise in step by step planning. Have them prioritize what needs to be done around the house including cleaning, decorating, inviting guest and creating gifts. What a great lesson in hospitality and it saves you time too.
If no other family members match the teens age and interests, think about allowing your teen to invite a friend who might not have a family with whom to spend the holiday. Above all, invite teens to think of others at this time. They can deliver gifts of food to needy neighbors, volunteer for soup kitchens at churches, and consider ways the whole family might be more mindful of others in the coming months.
Teens who love artistic endeavors might enjoy setting the table, making place holders, decorating the house, creating unique gifts wrappings, making and sending greeting cards, or trimming the tree. If done far enough in advance, they may discover a unique theme, or research how another country spends the Holidays. Imagine a Hawaiian Holiday in snowy Buffalo, NY! http://www.santas.net/aroundtheworld.htm
In families holding larger gatherings, especially with aging family members, you can create a scavenger hunt of information about family roots. Place photos of family members and friends on a board with one detail as a conversation starter. Ask teens and younger children too, even other adults who don't know much about the family history, to search for those individuals and add one new detail to the list. This can make for a fun way to get to know each other better, teach children about their roots, and allows for conversations beyond the latest video game.
An additional activity for your teens is to let them be the "press" for the day. Arm them with a camera, recorder or video with the goal of creating an album, calendar, or slide show. They choose the theme. Computer savvy teens will love this and will be able to download recipes and craft ideas too.
In the end, remember each teen is individual and you will need to find the key that opens the door. Once that door is open, remain flexible and let the teen run with their ideas. If they are given the space for creative freedom and fun, they are less likely to emerge from their caves, devour your feast and disappear into their dark holes before the party is over.
And, make sure everyone knows who was responsible for that secret recipe and that special something added by your teen. Call that teen "Chef" or "Decorator to the Stars," your pride in them will give them pride in themselves.
For crafts ideas and recipes: