The holiday season is often portrayed as a time for happy families to come together but if your family includes a troubled teen the holiday season may be anything but happy.
Here are 6 ideas for getting through the holidays with a troubled teen.
Idea #1: Set realistic expectations. If you have a teen who is depressed don't expect she will suddenly feel happy during the holidays. If your teen is defiant and poorly behaved don't expect him to act differently when relatives come to stay. In making plans it's important to realistically consider your troubled teen's current struggles and challenges. Plans for the holidays may need to change a bit or be low-key in order to minimize stress for your family.
Idea #2: Establish structured activities. Children of all ages need structure. Time off from school with nothing to do increases the chances your teens' troubles will increase due to having too much free time on their hands. Make structured holiday plans to include having your teen bake, wrap presents, participate in family outings or complete paid chores.
Idea #3: Focus on the positive. It's easy to be negative and focus only on a troubled teens' problems and shortcomings when you're spending more time with your teen than usual and you want holiday celebrations to go well. Make a point to look for desirable behavior and offer praise whenever you can. This sets a positive tone that usually gets results.
Idea #4: Ask your teen for input. Don't assume you know how your teen wants to spend the holidays, ask for their ideas about how to spend time together and what traditions are important to them. Their answers may surprise you. Keep in mind that teens are more likely to embrace and enjoy plans they come up with.
Idea #5: Keep up with your teen's therapy. If your troubled teen is participating in therapy it's important they continue to do so during the holiday season. Discuss this in advance with your teens' therapist who may be planning to take time off, if so make a plan for ways to provide therapy to the teen during the holidays. Perhaps arrange for additional sessions before the holiday or immediately afterwards. Or the therapist can assign therapeutic projects to complete during this time. Know how to contact the therapist in case of an emergency during the holidays.
Idea #6: Use this time to evaluate your teens' troubles. Spending increased time with your troubled teen during the holidays provides information and possibly a different perspective on how your teen is really doing. If their problems or behavior worsen during the holidays this is a warning sign their troubles are serious and would benefit from professional help. Promise yourself that if your teen makes the holidays difficult your New Years' resolution is to deal with the issues behind your teens' troubles. Getting your teen the help they need will make next years holiday season a brighter one.
Adapt these ideas as needed for your particular family situation. Take the time to consider and plan for your troubled teens' needs to create a happier holiday experience for your family.