From Charles Dickens to the Grinch, it seems everyone agrees: We all want to be children at Christmas. Maybe that doesn’t just apply to adults, but to teens, as well. Teenagers are less likely, perhaps, to admit it, even those with the most iron-clad persona of cool ambivalence — or even disgust and rebellion; however, they just might smile or soften with a little Christmas magic in the air. Or maybe it will take a miracle. Either way, parents of even the most troubled teens can take advantage of the holidays to increase those endorphins and help them feel the way we all want to feel this Christmas — happy.
Remind Them of Their Childhood
It’s not just old people that like to reminisce. Have you ever asked your teen about her favorite Christmas memories or told her about yours — maybe it was seeing her dance around to the Nutcracker in her sparkly new dress or making Christmas cookies together. In her self-absorption and current drama, she may have forgotten those simpler times, and you could bring back her happiness through reminding her by writing out those stories and showing her pictures — maybe even recreating some of those experiences for her, even if she thinks you’re being silly.
Include Elements of Wonder and Surprise
Part of what we call the “magic” of childhood isn’t really magic, at all. It’s the excitement that naturally accompanies new discoveries, before self-consciousness sets in. Maybe the best Christmas activities will be more than just the “same old traditions” and shopping from wish lists; instead, they’ll include learning something new, searching for treasures, and unexpected beauty.
Out-of-the-box activities might include putting on a photo or video or sound scavenger hunt or Geocaching (if you live in a warmer climate). Even hiding Christmas gifts around the house (or the neighborhood!) might add that element of surprise that translates into laughter reminiscent of the Christmases of childhood.
Remember the Joy of Giving
This doesn’t have to be the volunteer-at-a-homeless-shelter or Operation Christmas Child shoebox thing — although it could be. Try thinking more creatively, with an element of competition. Perhaps you could allot a specific amount of money for each member of your household to spend on a needy family and compare findings to see who got the most “bang for their buck” — and that person gets a special reward, such as a gift to a favorite restaurant or store.
Another idea might be celebrating successes through unique pass-along gifts like those from The Giving Key. Encouraging your teen to play “Secret Santa” to someone or “ding dong ditch” while dropping off handmade goodies could also give them a bit of a challenge, making the giving process fun.
Whatever you decide to do this Christmas, remember that the same things that get those endorphins going for kids are the same ones that work for adults and teens. So leave time in your Christmas activities to break out the marshmallow shooters, hold a snowman-building contest, or go ice skating in the park.