Good time to get closer to your teens: coach
Wellington teen advocate and author Eva Maria says Christmas is the perfect time to get closer to your teenagers – and she has some advice for the silly season.
‘‘Teens are looking forward to that family time, but they are not going to ask for it. You’d never admit it . . . but at a subconscious aspect you need to reconnect with family.’’
However, the ball is in the parents’ court, she stresses, and if teens aren’t aware of their parents’ expectations for the holidays early then they may start making other plans.
‘‘It’s a good time to do stuff together. It’s just about working out what you are going to do as a family, and making it clear; say to them ‘let’s do something for three days in a row – let’s go camping’, or something.’’
Get teens involved by giving them responsibility for holiday tasks, like helping to organise the camping trip or making brunch. This involves them and keeps them busy, says Eva Maria – and should reduce the workload for parents.
When it comes to Christmas spending, sharing the realities of the budget is a good way to bring parents and teens expectations closer together for holiday activities and Christmas present buying, and perhaps finding some creative ways to stretch it further.
Eva Maria recommends being open about how much money there is to spend and asking what your children want.
‘‘Maybe you can come up with a plan to put $200 towards the iphone 4 and come up with a plan for them to save up for it, so decide together how you are going to get it,’’ she says.
Teenagers may also be helpful finding discount websites or parallel importers with reduced prices.
The different generational approaches to technology are a common area of conflict, she says.
‘‘One of the biggest complaints that I’ve been getting from the 12 to 17 year-old age group is their parents are banning their cellphones during the Christmas holidays.’’
Eva Maria believes many parents are mistakenly banning technology to give teens time to relax because for them technology is a cause of stress, which is not the case for young people.
Parents often want to put away the gadgets so the family can spend time together, but don’t necessarily explain this well.
Teens will appreciate the gesture if parents make an effort to bridge the technology divide and take an interest in what they are involved in, she says.
‘‘Ask them if they have seen any cool stuff on the internet, then at least you’ll know what they’re talking about.
‘‘I showed my mum the ‘Nek Minute’ video, and she really didn’t understand it, but it was really cool to show it to her because it’s so funny.’’
Eva Maria says teens immersed in technology are not necessarily a concern. With spare time adolescents will gravitate to the pastimes that help them destress and relax; for some this will be going to the beach with friends, for others it will be staying at home listening to their ipod all day.
‘‘It’s important to have that free time to . . . do your own thing, but if you feel like they are falling into a pit of doing nothing, maybe you could have that talk about what they want to do with their holidays.’’
For teens aged 15 and up, talking together about the option of summer holiday jobs can open up new possibilities for them, she says.
‘‘It’s about planning that idea with them, giving them those options and asking them ‘ have you thought about working this summer?’
‘‘Even a few hours a day would add up – ask them: do they think they are going to be busy 24 hours a day?’’
Eva Maria says she has worked during the Christmas holidays since she was about 15 and the experience and benefits have been well worth giving up some spare time.
Jobs in retail and hospitality meant new friends, building good communication skills, having something to add to her CV and, of course, getting paid.
‘‘You think about what you’d be doing instead – I’d just be staying at home, but instead you can earn money to spend to do things like go to the movies without having to borrow money or not go because you can’t afford it.’’
Like most relationships experts, Eva Maria stresses that good communication is key to relationships with teenagers.
Ideally the Christmas holidays provide us with time to concentrate on family, clear the air of any conflicts that have built up during the year, share fun times and strengthen bonds, she says.