The holidays have arrived!

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christmas-treeThe warm yummmies that come with the holiday season are so many, unless they aren’t.

I love the holidays, for many reasons. The most prominent for me is the realization that the days are going to start getting longer again and the warm spring is something to look forward to. For me, the celebrations of seasonal shifts are beautiful, and the lights on a Christmas tree are like little bright little pieces of joy. I also resonate with the cultural connection of family time during this season, when you can push the pause button on many things and spend time around a fire, drinking apple cider, baking cookies, and putting together puzzles.

But the holidays are complex, with positive, negative, and neutral meanings. For many teenagers, for example, the holidays mean time off of school, and not necessarily when their parents are home with them. All kinds of research points to the time between school letting out and parents getting home and the summertime as the times when young people are more likely to have sex. For some young people it’s because this is when there is a window of time, but for many of them it’s because they’re bored and looking for human connection.

As a parent, I hope you’ll take note of what this means for you and the young people in your family:

Take time off to be with the young people in your family!

This is not merely a nice thing to do – it’s critical for their well being. It’s not selfish of you to take time off of work to bum around the house with your teenager and make Christmas cookies, play video games, and put up lights. It’s an important and impactful part of your parenting.

It’s also not something that all parents have the option of doing. While it would be nice if we lived in a country where time off from work and parental responsibilities were valued, we don’t. If you are one of those parents, don’t despair. There are ways to continue providing the young people in your family with structure and connection while you are at work, but it does take planning.

Keep the young people in your family engaged even when you aren’t there!

You can have a presence in the lives of the young people closest to you in many ways. Here are a few examples that may or may not work for you depending on your work environment:

  • Text each other cat videos, holiday songs, recipes for you to cook together later, and more. Staying in touch by text is better than not at all!
  • Provide suggestions (or possibly directions) of things to do every day. Write a short letter laying out suggestions for the day, including chores and fun ideas.
  • Leave supplies and directions for holiday crafts that they can make for themselves, for the house, or to give away as presents to family and friends. (Here are a few suggestions to get you and your teen started!)
  • Leave recipes for your teen to prepare something fun and new for dinner or desert. You could even print this recipe book for teens, have them read it one day, go shopping for ingredients after work, and they can cook the next day!
  • Make arrangements with family and family friends to hang out with the young person in your family. Maybe a neighbor needs help putting up their Christmas lights, making gingerbread houses with their young child, or making a Meals on Wheels run.
  • Harder to find, but definitely possible, are winter break camps. Here’s an example: https://www.campyatc.com/overnight-summer-winter-camps-high-school-students/

Keeping your teen busy and engaged throughout the holiday season isn’t something that is necessarily easy, and you’ll need to know them well enough to make plans that they’ll be excited about, but it is possible. It has the added benefit of enhancing their holiday memories and reducing the likelihood that they’ll have unprotected sex!

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This article was written by Dr. Karen Rayne

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