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Tapping Into the Teenage Brain: Holidays and Teens

Nov 19, 2023

Well, it’s certainly been a while since I’ve added a blog post! To say the fall has been busy is a legitimate UNDERSTATEMENT. Keeping up with responsibilities at home, having a full-time job, connecting with my @the_teenage_brain_thing community, completing coursework, staying healthy, and getting sleep have all been part of my constant to-do list lately. 


We’re just a few days away from Thanksgiving and just a few weeks until the winter holidays are in full swing, so I wanted to take the time to write about what the holidays and additional family time might look like for the teenagers in our lives:


First, as educators with our own families and traditions, please try not to assume your traditions or experiences during the holidays are shared with your teenage students. We have no idea what life is like for our teenagers when they leave our classrooms and hallways. Some of our teenagers may love this time of the year, while others find it stressful and maybe even really sad. As we talk about upcoming days off from school and winter breaks, be cognizant that not all of our teenagers want to be away from school. Oftentimes, school is a consistent, even safe place for our teenagers and being away from us (even when they sometimes act like they can’t stand us as educators) can be scary for them.


Second, it’s perfectly normal for the teenagers in our home to not want to hang out with the “old folks” as much as we would like. I distinctly remember my stepchildren only being able to handle a relatively short amount of “family time” when they were younger. After only a few hours, I remember both of them asking “can I go upstairs?” or “I just need to chill by myself for a bit” or some version of that. And I would get so upset - my responses were always something like, “you’re being rude! You never see these people!” But now, as I’ve been studying the teenage brain in more detail, it makes perfect sense that they wanted to either be by themselves or that they wanted to go play video games or talk with friends on the phone. Their friends are really, really important to them; they serve as their survival group for after they leave our homes. Now that my kids are older, I think they see the value in hanging out with the “old folks” a bit more, but if you have tweens in your house, don’t be surprised that they might find us a little boring. Give them boundaries and set expectations about what celebrating with family will look like.


Third, everyone’s emotions are just higher during the holidays. The transition to time away from school, time with families, spending money during the holiday season, the threat of more illness (Covid, RSV, or the common cold are all still viable fears for many during this time of year), and the financial strain of gift-giving are all stresses that adults AND teens feel. As adults, we need to model patience, actively practice taking deep breaths, and try to be calm (when we can) so our teens and tweens know how to deal with the difficulties that come with this season. After all, it’s not always the “most wonderful time of the year” but with a little knowledge and awareness, we all can have a little fun as 2023 comes to a close.


Thanks for reading - stay connected and don’t hesitate to reach out!

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