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How to connect with teenagers this Christmas

12 November 2021

When talking to families about their thoughts and feelings about the upcoming festive season, we spoke to a number of parents who were concerned about engaging their teenage children in Christmas activities and keeping them involved in family life.  

It can be difficult managing the different needs and expectations of family members at Christmas, but we found that this was a particular concern where teens are involved.  

Here’s what one mum told us:  

“Past Christmas’s were filled with anticipation and magical excitement when our children were younger. Both my kids would hunch over the Christmas catalogues mailed out to us, turning down the corners of the pages of the things that were going “on the list”.  

They would be up at the crack of dawn to eat their advent calendar chocolates and the season was a busy, joyful one for me as I contributed to PTA drives for Christmas fetes, helped with Nativity costumes and attended carol concerts.  

But now Christmas in our house looks so very different and I am wistful for the innocence and warmth of the past. My 9-year-old and 13-year-old create wish lists on Amazon inspired by YouTube unboxing videos. This year, one catalogue managed to arrive in the post but I don’t even think many stores create catalogues anymore.  

Now Christmas in our house looks so very different and I am wistful for the innocence and warmth of the past.

For my teenager, the lure of her room has become too great.  

We now generally only see her when she needs food, is coming home or leaving the house. I know that this is her asserting her independence and boundaries but I do miss the little girl who needed me to do almost everything for her. My son has also become considerably more independent and spends more time playing on his console and connecting with his friends.  

Suddenly I have a lot more time on my hands and have forgotten how to fill that time!”  

So, what should I do? 

We spoke to Professor Paul McGee, author of “YESSS! The SUMO Secrets To Being a Positive Confident Teenager” to help us put together some tips on how to understand your teen’s changing needs… and some tips for how to keep your relationship with them on track  


Here’s what he said:  

They need that sleep!  

Teenagers’ brains and bodies are still developing and won’t mature fully until their mid-twenties, so forgive them their lie-ins and the odd over-reaction! (even if they do take place on Christmas morning).  

Allow them their space  

Our teenagers are maturing into adults, but not quite there yet, and are trying to carve out their own space in the world. Most of us wouldn’t want to hang out with our parents all the time as adults, so we have to accept that we’re no longer the centre of their world. It doesn’t mean they no longer need us.  

Make the most of the time you have  

Although it might be tempting to complain about acting as a taxi service, try to see these times when they need support or a favour during the Christmas season as an opportunity to chat and catch up.  

Pick your moments  

Despite it sometimes appearing to the contrary teens  still  want to hear they are loved and appreciated. Just make sure that you don’t embarrass them when you do so. Christmas is a perfect time for this, as cards allow us to write messages that might not be acknowledged in the moment, but can be cherished later. 

Family relationships can be difficult at any time, and the hustle and bustle of the festive season can often make existing problems or worries worse. Our free FamilyLine service offers emotional and listening support as well as practical information and guidance. Find out more 

For ideas and inspiration to involve Teens in Christmas family activities sign up for our Make Theirs Magic Christmas Calendar.