When my kids were young, I struggled to make holidays magical.
It was actually pretty easy because kids look for magic everywhere.
I struggled for moderation and balance. I didn’t like going into debt for one day and see all the presents discarded while they played with one simple toy for months afterwards.
I almost miss the pretty dresses and excitement leading up to Christmas morning.
Now that my kids are teens, they really don’t even remember those holidays when they were young. They don’t remember our decorations or the presents or the food or the spilled wine or my sadness, stress, and worry I felt.
The kids ask for stories of holidays when I was young or how did we celebrate in Hawaii when we lived there. I don’t gloss over anything. It helps me to talk about it.
Holidays have always been hard for me. I’ve spent many years laying a foundation of memories for my children in spite of my triggers and stresses and perfectionism.
I realize my giving up control and letting my kids do the holidays how they want has really made us all so much happier.
Over the years, I did some things right and oh, so many things wrong.
Some years, we put the tree up way early. We did this during deployment and this year with the pandemic. We need some joy.
The kids almost set up and decorate everything with very little input from me these last few years. I stand back in awe. They work together like clockwork. The kids even set up the lights and animal decorations outside.
We began traditions years ago that have stayed with us and we all look forward to St. Nicholas’ Day and Hanukkah latkes each year. We look forward to the Solstice.
My teens love to bake and they’re old enough now that I come home from errands or appointments to a lovely walnut pound cake or pumpernickel bread or a new cookie recipe.
My middle daughters make homemade gifts – jewelry and art. I am impressed by their creativity.
My son has always helped me with the gift wrapping. I find it interesting that his sisters have never really expressed interest.
I love seeing the pride on their faces that they did these wonderful magical things for our family. They are making great memories.
I love watching holiday movies with my kids. They still love the fun family favorites and we’re adding new traditions each year. There hardly seems time enough to watch everything!
We love listening to holiday music and find some fun and unique play lists during our pizza making each week.
I still read aloud every morning with our homeschool and holiday books.
My eldest moved out a month ago and we’re enjoying seeing her about once a week for a family dinner. Her siblings miss her and love playing games and watching videos with her.
Many activities we have done every year, but they just seem more special now that my teens look forward to them and even remind me. They rave about my Aunt Betty’s punch that we only have on special occasions.
They’re starting to realize and prefer the frugal activities that mean more than spending lots of money on fleeting experiences or items that won’t last.
Holiday Fun with Teens
- Advent Readings and Celebrations
- Frank Kelly Christmas Countdown
- PNC Christmas Price Index
- Holiday Movies
- Holiday Books
- Saint Nicholas Day
- Hanukkah Latkes
- Looking at Lights
- Baking and Cooking – See some recipes for snowballs, chocolate chip, and chocolate spice cookies
- Cocoa or Cider Bar
- Winter Hiking
- Ice Skating or Tubing
- Game Night
- Christmas Tea Party
- Winter Solstice Activities
How have your holidays changed with older kids?
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Theresa Boedeker says
Great ideas. Teens really do like having a part and say in things. Being included is affirming for them. Love this line: “I realize my giving up control and letting my kids do the holidays how they want has really made us all so much happier.” I am laughing at this, because so often the things we try and control for our kids to make it special for them, they might not appreciate or remember.
Jennifer Lambert says
Thanks so much!
Jeanne Takenaka says
Ahhhh, Jennifer. I love your suggestions here! We’ve actually been coming TO Hawaii for the past number of years to spend time with family, especially with my MIL, who’s been ill. This has sidelined our family traditions. But, especially this year, we have seen how beneficial it is to give our teens time for themselves. We’ve spent time as a family/with extended family, but our guys really like having time for themselves as well. It sounds like you guys have some wonderful traditions and have made special memories with your kids!
This post would probably resonate with readers at the Tell His Story linkup, found on my site. I invite you to share over there. :)
Have a wonderful Christmas!
Lauren Renee Sparks says
How sweet. My teen is in a very self and friend centered stage so I hope she will participate in some family things without kicking and screaming this year.
Jennifer Lambert says
I think it’s important that we as parents participate with our children.
Debbie Wilson says
Jennifer, I think it’s wonderful you are in sync with your growing children. Wonderful list of ideas.
I am loving Christmas with teens; so much less stressful than holidays with young kids. Thanks for sharing with us at Encouraging Hearts and Home. Pinned.