Wes: Christmas 2010 is now in the memory book. High school and junior high students have a few days left of vacation, college kids won’t head back to dorms or apartments until mid-January. So it’s tempting to cram in a lot of intense family time over the holidays, especially if your child’s been away since September or you’re a noncustodial parent of a younger teen, and this is “your” holiday. Before decking the halls with lots of activities, put yourself in your kid’s shoes. Reflect a moment on your own adolescence, and how different this time of year is when you were 17 than when you are, say, 40.
For adults the holidays bring times of family celebration, travel and togetherness. For teens it’s a time for rest, relaxation, hanging out with friends and trying to forget the pain of finals, while suppressing the dread of what terror next semester’s Advanced Calc might hold.
That’s even truer for kids already in the work force. It’s been a tough year for employment-seeking youths and those who have jobs are often thankful to have any break from the workaday world. As parents we’ve long adapted to that daily routine. Our kids are just getting the hang of it.
So as you are surveying your crashed-out teens this holiday season, lounging nonproductively on the couch, texting or improving their kill-to-death ratio on “Call of Duty,” try not to be disappointed at their lack of spirit. Make them a sandwich, give them a hug and realize that in doing so you may be giving the most precious holiday gifts of all: space and time. They don’t call it “Christmas Break” for nothing.
Ben: The holidays are a great time for family and friends. I’ve spent every Christmas at home with my family, and I’ve spent the last three years bringing in the new year with a handful of close friends. I’m one of those people who got away with having a great family and great friends, and that’s something I try to appreciate over the holiday season.
Family is something to be cherished. I know that your posse’s idea of a good time may be more up your alley, but posses come and go. Some of you are fortunate enough to have lifelong friends, but all of us have lifelong families. Show them some love over break. It doesn’t matter how crummy your Christmas gifts to them were.
Your time is a gift. Give it.
— Dr. Wes Crenshaw is a board-certified family psychologist and director of the Family Therapy Institute Midwest. Ben Markley is a senior at Free State High School. Opinions and advice given here are not meant as a substitute for psychological evaluation or therapy services. Send your questions about adolescent issues (limited to 200 words) to firstname.lastname@example.org. All correspondence is strictly confidential.