Parenting Teen/Tweens over Christmas - part one

How to ease the stress, manage expectations and enjoy the big day.

Go to the profile of Sarah Newton
Dec 12, 2016
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Parenting teens at Christmas can be a very stressful experience. So the big day is nearly upon us and for most Parents I know, this joy-filled day can become the most stressful day of the year, so here are my tips for the day.

Tip One - Get organised

With so much to do, cards to write, presents to wrap, Christmas dinner to plan, parents can become overwhelmed and then when the big day arrives, they don’t enjoy it. Now I am not a organisational expert, so I am not going to tell you how to get physically organised . However, what I want to share are the biggest things that get missed out when we plan for Christmas and that is what you want from the day; how do you want the day to go?

Make a list of what you want to happen and how you want to feel. We get so involved in all the doing that we forget who we actually want to be.

Why is this important in parenting teenagers?

a) Most parents have totally unrealistic expectations of the day, expecting their family to be like the Waltons, never living up to their expectations. You need to get real; knowing you and your family, how do you want to feel and be during the day? There is a difference between everything happening at a certain time to you choosing to lighten up and be flexible.

b) When you know how you want to feel, the words you want to use to describe Christmas day, then you can instil the help of the rest of the family. When we say, “I want Christmas day to be fun, inclusive of all and I want us all to enjoy it”, we can have a different conversation with our family and teenagers.

c) Knowing how you want to feel and who you want to be during the day will keep you focussed and help make decisions based on what you and your family want, rather than what Auntie Dot, who you have not seen since last Christmas, wants.

d) By getting clear yourself then you are more likely to get your teenager on board or at least on the same page as you.

So here is what I want you to do; don’t worry, it is quick and will not add much to your already oversubscribed To Do List.

1. Imagine the day is over and ask yourself, what three things happened today that you loved? How did you feel today, what three feelings did you experience?

2. Now you have that, ask yourself how you can ensure you get these things.

3. Now what are the three things that you absolutely do not want to happen and how can you put a plan in place for that?

4. Who do you need to talk to to make sure these things happen? For example, I want Christmas Day to be relaxing, free and a giggle. So I make sure everyone knows that. The first thing I do is yoga, come what may, the day does not start until that is finished. People know that I have no strict schedule, dinner is ready whenever it is ready. I also restrict TV so we can do fun things together like play Outburst, etc. If all these things happen, I am a happy bunny.

So let’s say that the one thing you want is an uninterrupted family meal that everyone enjoys. You may turn off the phone, ban mobiles from the dinner table including your own, make sure that all visitors know not to visit at this time, turn off the TV and assign everyone a job to do around the meal…. So the conversation with your teenager/tween would go something like…

“This year I want us to have a stress-free, uninterrupted dinner so here are some things I request. One if you are having friends around; please make sure they are not around during these times, do not bring your mobile to the Christmas table, we will be having a TV-free dinner, so if there is anything you want to watch, please let me know so I don’t not do dinner at that time. Also, to take the pressure off we will all take responsibility for part of the meal. What do you want to be responsible for?”

Can you see the difference between this and just expecting that you teen will do it without being asked, just because they care enough about you to know you don’t like it? Well heads up, they may not know it bothers you, so give them advance warning so there is no tension on the day.

Tip Two -Make a Plan

OK, you read Tip One and hopefully got clear on what you want, so now you need to make a plan and yes, that mostly includes communicating with your family. I know, strange concept, but it really will help!

I love family meetings and have included some information below on how to run them. I know however that this is not possible for every family. So if you cannot call a family meeting, talk to them all individually.

Here is what I want you to ask them:

What three things do you need to happen on Christmas day for you to really enjoy it?

When you have all that information, combine it with what you know you want and see how they all fit together. How can their needs and your needs all be met? What may you need to shift, change, move around, compromise on?

What we you heading for here in making sure everyone gets their top things met? So, if Johnny wants to play with his new Wii game that he thinks you have bought him and you don’t want anyone on the computer/TV, maybe that can happen when you are making dinner so it does not affect your day that much.

When you have figured it out, whether on your own or in a meeting, let them know loosely how you see it all working. You don’t want the day planned down to the finest detail, but any strategy and plan you put in place now can save tons of conflict later.

Family meetings can be a great way to lessen conflict. I want to share with you something that I have been doing now for months and have been working on with some of my clients, the concept of a Family Meeting.

I believe that a family is a team and when they work together in a collaborative way, they can achieve great things.

The concept is very easy and can be implemented with a child of any age. In my opinion, six years old is the right age to start and that is what I have found with my clients.

Family meetings started in my house because my daughter requested them. I am, as you can imagine, a very busy parent and as a family, we do not get a lot of time to discuss things as much as we should. My oldest daughter pulled me up one day, telling me that we never get time to talk about the important things and I realised that she was right . . . so the family meeting was born. Every Saturday we sit down for about 30 minutes and have our family meeting.

It is very simple and follows this process.

1. We each take it in turns to speak (Freya created her own talking stick for this).

2. We state something that we have loved over the last week with regards to the family and something that we want to change and open up for discussion. No one interrupts us and we state our side of the argument.

3. We discuss it as a family and come to an agreement.

4. At the end of the meeting we each commit to one thing we will change about ourselves to make the family run more smoothly next week.

My clients and I have found this to be a huge success and it works on many levels. Firstly, it shows our children that we think what they have to say is important and that they have a say in how the house is run. Secondly, it gives us a forum to discuss the more important things that cannot be dealt with in five minutes, therefore children stop nagging as they know that their issues will be dealt with. Thus it allows us all to discuss our feelings openly and without judgment. There are only two rules; we do not speak when someone else is talking and we do not blame anyone for anything, we can only say how something makes us feel.

It has worked a treat, so give it a try and see what happens.


More Tips on their way

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Go to the profile of Sarah Newton

Sarah Newton

Author, Speaker and Youth Coach

Sarah Newton has shared her innovative wisdom with millions who have tuned into her TV and Radio shows, followed her writing and listened to her unconventional talks. She has been described as a catalyst, daring all she meets to break out from social norms and follow their own path. She has worked in youth empowerment for over 30 years, first as a police officer and then eventually running her own business, via a stint at Disney World in Florida. Sarah has a no-nonsense, down-to-earth approach to solving most youth-associated problems, based on tactics that work, not rhetoric out of a book. She often is the only one in the room to stand by her viewpoint and tends to think the opposite from everyone else. Star of ITV’s “My Teen’s A Nightmare, I’m Moving Out” and author of “Help! My Teenager is an Alien – the everyday situation guide for parents”, Sarah has just teamed up with her daughter to write a novel to help girls with their body image issues, she has also written for The Guardian, The Huffington Post and the Daily Mail. Sarah also sits on the UK board of the Arbonne Charitable Foundation and is an ambassador for Girls Out Loud.

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