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5 Ways to Have a Great Holiday With a Moody Teenager

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Have you ever looked closely at the famous Norman Rockwell holiday dinner painting? The turkey is gigantic and perfectly browned and everyone is eager to eat and engage in conversation. You know what’s missing from the scene? A moody teenager. He’s probably slumped in his chair so you can’t see him in the frame.

Moms put so much work into family gatherings and want so badly to have picturesque moments. Yes, there’s beauty in the messiness of family, but is it too much to ask for your kid to leave the dark cloud at the bedroom door and just eat some stuffing? If a hormonal kid is going to be sitting at your table, try these 5 ideas for how to stop your child from ruining a holiday.

1. Set ground rules.

You can’t force a teenager to do anything, but going in with a plan will keep you out of reaction mode and establish clear boundaries for your teen. No phones at the table, no hiding in your room, take a breather for 15 minutes at a time if you need to, and speak to others when spoken to are reasonable expectations. Write it down if you have to so there’s no gray area.

2. Ask your teen how he or she would like to contribute.

A great tip for how to stop your child from ruining a holiday is to let him or her pick a task. I remember being a teen and having my mom give me one order after another, which felt hectic to me. I preferred one or two big jobs, like peeling potatoes or washing dishes, and being able to work independently. By asking your teen what way he or she wants to contribute, you’re showing respect which can go a long way in getting cooperation.

3. Avoid the guilt trip.

Piling on the negativity doesn’t give teens clear instruction for how to improve—it just helps you blow off steam. Saying things like “you’re ruining dinner” will just leave your teen with a sour taste for the holiday and put distance between you. The exception to this rule is grandparents. If the grandparents are getting the cold shoulder or a major attitude from your kid, it’s perfectly acceptable to lean in and with a low, calm voice say, “Your grandparents deserve your respect and attention. Please give it to them.”

4. Start the day with gratitude.

Want to know how to stop your child from ruining a holiday? Don’t let your joy or peace hinge on anyone else’s behavior. Sure, that sounds like a tall order, staying serene while back talk or sarcastic comments are flying your way—but it is possible. Start your day thanking God for five things that won’t change before the last dish is cleaned and put away, like your family’s health, the food you get to eat, and His presence in your life.

5. Adjust your expectations.

If you’re expecting a Pinterest-worthy gathering with no bobbles or burned crusts, just let it go. Setting unrealistic standards puts way too much pressure on this one day and the humans who are gathering to celebrate it. If you’re going to expect anything, expect that your teens will be moody because their bodies are doing crazy things and they’re just trying to figure it out. You’ve had 40 years to make sense of it, but it’s totally new for them.

What do you do to get along with your teen during the holidays?


What’s your favorite way to help on Thanksgiving Day?

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