Teenagers and Thanksgiving

Teenagers and Thanksgiving

As adults we look forward to Thanksgiving in a way that most teenagers cannot really grasp.  We have so many obligations, sacrifices and responsibilities that a day of giving thanks and spending a nice time with our families can be something to look forward to all year!  You may have nice thoughts in your mind about your teenager wanting to spend time with his or her family, having fun doing it, and being involved in the preparations.  However, teenagers may see Thanksgiving as exactly what we are trying to get a break from – tedious obligations.  And trying to mold their emotions and behaviors to fit your ideal thanksgiving fantasy could turn into setting yourself up for a disappointing and frustrating thanksgiving. 

Here I offer a different mentality regarding your teenager and their participation in thanksgiving.  Express thankfulness for all the good personal qualities that your teenager has by putting aside their personal faults and making an effort to make the day special for them too.  This will not only reinforce the message that your teenager is special to you but you may even get some good Thanksgiving karma coming back your way.

If teenagers appreciate one thing it’s increased freedom and independence.  Give them a choice of what to do for part of Thanksgiving Day.  Tell them that you are doing this because you want to express your thankfulness for their good qualities.  Have a conversation with your teenager about how they would like to spend Thanksgiving.  Teenager could mention hanging out with their friends outside of the house for part of the day, having a separate space in the house for them to be with their friends and away from the adults, or simply being free from the obligation of having to socialize with family members and family friends the entire time.  At the same time make it clear that you expect them to take an active part in the celebration at certain times.  This can include being present at the actual meal and assisting with the preparations for the day. 

Take the opportunity to help your teenager learn to negotiate the details and the balance between personal preferences and family obligations.  For example, give them options and different ways they can help with the preparations and let them chose which ones they would prefer to do.  This will hopefully lessen the burden that teenagers may experience during Thanksgiving Day and help them enjoy their family time knowing that they had a role in deciding how it would happen.  Be generous, and remember that Thanksgiving Day is no time to pick a battle to fight.  

By Miguel Brown