Teens usually dread holiday get-togethers. Family festivities usually include lots of people crammed into a small dinning room/house/car, schmoozing with people you only see once a year, making small talk about college and career plans and watching younger siblings. I personally love seeing which hat my grandmother has decorated for the occasion–they usually include twinkling, beeping moving parts and shoots of fill-in corny holiday symbol (mistletoe, paper fireworks or bunny ears) sticking out in all directions.
My aunt also tends to bring something for the pot-luck even though we all try to convince her she doesn’t need to, she usually ends up making some version of ‘ambrosia’ with my mom’s powdered sugar, fruit cups and marshmallows left-over from Labor Day.
Grandparents and extended family members can actually take advantage of their own family’s forms of annoyances to bond with estranged and often bored teens. Print this one out and sneak it to your family’s grandma or grandpa.
1. Make fun of yourselves
A lot of the time teens have no idea that other people might be just as embarrassed as they are about their family. Every family has that ‘someone’ who farts at the table (happened), gives his sister-in-law a whip for secret santa (happened and I have never seen the oohs and aahs from presents die down so fast) and puts butter on everything from cheesecake to pickles because it ‘slides down better’ (regular mealtime occurence). Tell your teen you think its funny too.
2. Take a break from the ‘fun’ together
Pull your targeted teen aside and joke around with them, bond over your families oddities. Need some more ice or wine? Be the first to volunteer and then ask the family teen ‘if they need a break as much as you do.’ When you finally get to the grocery store or to the garage to get some extra rope…I mean Christmas lights, ask their opinion about what’s around. What do they think about the tabloid magazine covers in the grocery line? Do they still use the tire swing? Asking questions and then actually listening to the answers can make the teen feel included, heard and important.
3. Avoid embarrassing them (this includes toddler stories)
It seems that grandparents, great aunts and older family relatives alike seem to think that ‘bonding’ with teens means telling embarrassing stories about the teens when they were younger. Notice how tip #1 says make fun of yourself…not the person you are trying to bond with. This will only make your teen more uncomfortable and less willing to sit next to you at the dinner table (this doesn’t apply to those that fart at the dinner table, as no one wants to sit next to them anyways).
4. Take positive notice
Take notice of changes in you teen, the caveat here is make it ‘positive.’ Taking notice of a new piercing and then yelling at them for ruining their lovely eyebrow, is not good for the relationship. If they have a shorter haircut, compliment them on it and ask what motivated them to do it. If they just look healthy and great, tell them! Just, please, please, please don’t pinch anything…ever. Teens are constantly being nagged at by parents, teachers and other adults, so if you can say something nice and non-threatening that shows you are paying attention, this will be a great opener with a grandteen.
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Tags: Communication, Family, Grandparent, Holiday, Relationship, and Teen