Tips for happy holidays with your teen

Holidays with teenagers are challenging enough without comments from visiting relatives about your son or daughter's nose ring or orange hair. Such clashes can lead to tensions during an already pressure-packed time.

"Coping with your teen is challenging enough 10 months a year, but when you add November and December holidays, things can get testy if you're not prepared," says Kate Kelly, author of "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Parenting a Teenager" (Alpha Books), and mother of two teenage girls and one pre-teen girl.

"The holidays are filled with potential for alienation. It's your obligation as a parent to work actively with your teen to help him or her feel a part of the holidays," she says.

To help parents, Ms. Kelly offers these suggestions:

Remember that family activities take priority during the holidays. Tell your teen which family obligations are mandatory during the holidays. Despite what your teen may say, he or she really doesn't want to be left out of the family traditions. Remind your teen that their friends have similar family obligations.

Provide teens with a holiday schedule and set limits. Write down dates and times when family activities are planned. Include them so they don't feel broadsided by a family event. They need to have time with their friends, Kelly says, but, she adds, don't let the teen's schedule take priority over the family's.

Offer some flexibility. Most teens don't want to spend hours with family. If a four-hour visit with relatives is "too long and boring," let your teen leave early if you live close by.

"If your teen has been a good sport, cut them some slack for good behavior."

Require a dress code. Disagreeing over clothes goes with the territory, but if ripped or bizarre clothing will raise hackles at Grandma's, you need to discuss this.

"Teens are capable of understanding that they should be respectful of other people's wishes," Kelly says.

Encourage relatives not to be critical. Family members need to respect teens, according to Kelly. "It might be helpful to give them a 'heads-up' call before they see your teen, especially if they've gotten a nose ring or dyed their hair since their last visit."

Also, talk to extended family about appropriate gifts. "You can advise your relatives on the things your teen likes," she says. "Years of inappropriate gifts sets up a psychological barrier between the generations ... and makes the teen think the relative has no clue who he or she is."

(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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