Written by: Beth Creek
In the midst of all the “merry” and “happy” let’s take a few minutes to unpack some strategies that would help our families have a “Healthy Holidays.” Young people in our families and communities are increasingly struggling with pressure from the past 21 months.
They are trying to catch up on school/learning, afraid to say no to social opportunities because they missed so many, or in some cases, have withdrawn from the social scene after months of isolation.
One of the most significant challenges is for families, and adult friends, to help teens find balance during one of the busiest times of the year. When teens are overwhelmed they are more likely to turn to alcohol and other substances to cope with those feelings. Here are some strategies for having a “Healthy Holidays” with your teen.
It’s okay to say NO- no is a complete sentence, practice it often to keep
from overcommitting. Youth try to avoid feeling as if they have disappointed their friends/peers, which leads to over commitment, which can unfortunately increase their risk of alcohol use/abuse.
Be satisfied with good enough- perfection is the thief of joy, and releasing the idea of perfection reduces stress on everyone. Even as adults, we know that striving for perfection brings incredible pressure. We are all aware of the pressure that we face as adults. Teens have their own set of stressors, and it can help them tremendously when they see us modeling the balance that comes from releasing perfection.
Downtime matters- today’s teens have missed out on so much in the past twenty one months, they often need reminders to build in downtime. Ask them to talk through their schedule and ask them- when is your time for YOU?
Know your priorities- focus on what’s important and encourage your teen to do the same. Use a scale if necessary, a 5 is high priority and high value, a 1 is low priority and low value. This can be an especially helpful tool for youth to learn how to use, particularly when they transition to college or independent living.
Remember to have fun! Our teens are still kids, and one of the best things we can do for their mental well-being is to create opportunities to have fun. Christmas light tours, snow ball fights, (with paper when snow isn’t available!) Holiday movies, and other traditions can bring so much joy.
Youth cite “not wanting to disappoint parents/caring adults” as the number 1 reason why they don’t use alcohol and other drugs. Every step you take to connect with the young person in your life is another step toward them having positive coping skills that help insulate them from substance use disorders. You have the power to influence and impact their futures by helping them build healthy habits today.
Have a safe and “Healthy Holidays''!