Ringing in the New Year with Your teens

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Ivana Pejakovic, B.Sc., MA
Did you know New Year’s Day is called ‘Global Family Day?’

It is common now a days for parents to celebrate New Year’s separately from their teens. Even teens as young as 14, 15 or 16 years old make plans of their own as parents book their own festivities. After all, teens are clearly not interested in spending the time with mom and dad but prefer to spend it with peer’s their age or slightly older and cooler acquaintances.

Traditionally, families celebrated such holidays together. While youth and adults would separate into their respective groups, the entire family attended the same party. They arrived together, they celebrated together, and they left together. Such actions promoted family unity and family cohesiveness.

The benefits of spending New Years with your teens include:

1. You strengthen your bond with your kids
2. You let your teens know their company is important to you
3. You promote family togetherness as a value to be adopted by your teens
4. You spend happy and festive times with your kids (not just the regular days)
5. You create tradition
6. You create good memories you and your teens can recall
7. You can model a responsible way to ring in the New Year to your teens
8. You are able to supervise your child to ensure his safety (teens behave differently when parents are around)

Little by little families have adopted the belief that it is normal for teens who are seeking independence to spend celebrations with their peers as opposed to their ‘uncool’ parents. [This is often witnessed when teens go clubbing or to bars on Christmas Day, Thanksgiving night, during Hanukkah celebrations, Passover, Kwaanza, Good Friday and Easter holiday, and other valued cultural festivities.]

For many families (who unconsciously use families in the community or TV families as a guide), divided celebrations have become an acceptable way of ringing in the New Year. Do not worry about how other families are celebrating New Year’s, follow your own values and instincts about family togetherness. Following your intuition is a sign of a confident and in-control parent.

If your teens are used to spending time with their peers, you may be faced with a few challenges when you introduce the idea of family togetherness. After all, young teens have developed traditions of their own and you are not a part of them.

The toughest challenge you may face is your teens desire to be with friends. Teens see other teens ringing in the New Year with friends and as such want to be part of the group. In their minds, their lack of presence signifies separation from peers and losing their spot in the peer group. Let them know through action, they fit into the FAMILY group. Don’t fall into the trap of ‘all teens and families do it like this.’ Set your own standards and traditions and let your teen know you want his presence to enrich this occasion.

When planning the night, plan to bring your teens to a party where they recognize a few of their peers (it’s no fun if they are the only kids or if no one knows anyone). If there are no such options, why not stay in and create your own party? No one is ever too old for fun family games. Stay firm in your decision, however, your teens will thank you for it in years to come.

If the parents are divorced, alternate the years of where your teen will spend New Year’s (if spending it together is not possible). The idea is for teens to feel loved and wanted by their parents. Sometimes teens from divorced families may choose to spend the celebration with their friends because they have a hard time picking one parent over another. Help your teen with this decision by organizing the event with the other parent and presenting the idea to your child.

Many blessings to you and your family in the New Year!

Ivana Pejakovic, Self-esteem Toronto Life Coach

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