I’m regularly asked, “What is the secret to raising healthy teenagers?”
I think we often wonder if there’s some big secret to raising healthy teenagers. Something we are missing, that others know the answer to.
My answer is usually this, “There is no magic bullet, the small things ARE the big things!”
The Beauty of Traditions
One of the ‘small’ ways that we can bond with our teens, without realising it, is through everyday rituals and regular family traditions. Many family and cultural traditions communicate to young people that they belong to something bigger than themselves. It says, “This is us!” They don’t need to be set in stone and might evolve as your family grows and changes, but traditions communicate cohesion and belonging.
Even when teens roll their eyes at family traditions, most feel secure in knowing that their family has special times together. Through tumultuous times, traditions serve as family anchors and safe havens to be counted on.
The beauty of traditions is in their regularity. Regularity and ritual create a sense of stability.
What Works for Raising Healthy Teenagers?
In terms of traditions, there’s also no single tradition that brings some sort of magic. It’s about making the occasion work for your family structure. Your family tradition will leave its own memories.
For example, if you are new to an area or a country, some of your family traditions will only involve your little family unit, but at other times think about extending to include others who might be new or lonely themselves. I remember our first few Christmases in Australia, when we didn’t have any family living in the country. We invited as many couples as we could find, with small children, who didn’t have extended family of their own to a big Christmas Eve dinner at our home. Although my family lives near us now, we still invite people without extended family to join us all at our Christmas dinner table every year.
In his Parenting Plan, educator Andrew Lines suggests that parents use birthdays as times to both honour their child and celebrate new milestones of growth in responsibility. I get quite sad when I hear of families that don’t make a big thing of birthdays. A birthday signifies a celebration of your child’s life and says you are glad they are in yours.
My best friend’s family has a much-treasured birthday tradition that includes bunting and balloons hung the night before, and the birthday person chooses whatever breakfast they would like. The family wake the person up with singing and lit birthday candles, and they all sit down to breakfast for present opening. Our birthday traditions look very different, but they’re equally special.
Get your teens involved
Ask your teens which traditions or regular events have meant something to them. Sometimes we look back and realise something has become a tradition without realising it.
Family tradition ideas
- Special birthday rituals – like cake in bed, or a special meal that your teen loves to eat. Andrew Lines suggests, buying intentional gifts – something worthwhile and memorable which reflects your child’s next stage of responsibility. You might perhaps offer a new freedom, to help your children understand the link between freedom and responsibility. This may simply be going to bed a little bit later than the previous year or being able to go a little further on their bicycle.
- Annual holidays in the caravan or at the same beach or bush venue
- Christmas Eve dinners with extended family and grandparents
- Christmas in July
- Movie marathons – My husband and eldest son did annual Lord of The Rings marathons for ages.
- Passover dinners
- Annual autumn picnics
- Monthly Sunday afternoon teas in the sun
- Parent and daughter/son campouts
- Annual family feasts
- Regular family dinners (<- I’ve written about the research on family meals before.)
- Cooking with a traditional family recipe
- Add your own here
Simply spend time with your teen, doing things they enjoy, to demonstrate your love and to show them they matter to you.
What are your teen’s favourite traditions?
Here is my podcast on this topic?. I’d love it if you had a listen and shared with a parent of teens.