My brother and I sat at the top of the stairs, the anticipation of Christmas day pounding in our little hearts. The moment we were signaled by my parents, we raced downstairs. Our eyes filled with wonder as we took in the glow of the Christmas lights, the crackling of the fire, the presents sitting under the tree. Giggles filled the room as our excitement grew.

Fast forward to our teenage years, with quieter, slower mornings. The laughter and excitement softened. It wasn’t gone —it just wasn’t as obvious as it once was.

How to make memories with your teen

It seems like Christmas loses its magic as we get older. Life is more complicated, and it’s harder to be present and find joy in the little things. Chances are, your teen is feeling this too.

Christmas won’t look like it did when your kid was younger, but it doesn’t need to. In these years, God is revealing who He has created your child to be. As they grow, your relationship will grow too. You’ll learn to relate to them on a deeper level as you try new activities together and have meaningful conversations.

If you find yourself struggling to engage your teen this Christmas, here are a few ways to make memories this season.

1. Enter their world through intentional conversations.

Remember what it was like to be a teenager? Life was full of uncertainty. It was both exciting and terrifying. Keep this in mind when you’re talking with your teen. Give them space to process the conversation, as they may need time to open up.

Ask open-ended questions on how they feel about school, youth group, and friends. What about this year was really great? What about this year was especially hard?

Ask your teen about their interests. What do you like most about ___? What is most challenging about ___? Do you have any goals for ___ this next year?

Be sure to offer your intentional presence. The holiday season can be hectic, so take every chance you get to slow down and talk with your teen, whether that means asking them about their day or about their favorite songs.

2. Give them your time and attention.

Since I was a teenager, I’ve looked forward to sipping coffee on the couch with my dad early on Christmas morning, the fire crackling in the fireplace. Part of what makes this time so special is there are no distractions —just the two of us talking peacefully.

Think about when you felt most connected to your teen in the past. Consider creating opportunities to make memories by spending one-on-one time with your teen. What could quality time look like for the two of you?

Think sipping coffee in the morning, going on a walk together, taking a shopping trip, or playing their favorite sport.

3. Include their friends in a few family nights.

The older your kids get, the more time they’ll want to spend with their friends. While it’s natural for them to branch out and create their own lives, it doesn’t have to mean the end of family time. Give each kid a “plus one” to the next family event, whether it’s a game night or sledding in the backyard. This will be a great opportunity to get to know your teen’s friends better.

Get together with your friends and learn the Art of Parenting.

4. Set boundaries to help you make memories.

Setting some boundaries for the holidays actually allows for more family time. One boundary might be that everyone stays off their cell phone from 6 p.m.-9 p.m. while the family enjoys dinner and a movie, walk, or game night. Or ask everyone to clear their schedules for a fun family event like ice skating or snow tubing.

5. Make room for new freedoms.

Now that your teen is getting older, they’re able to help with some of the fun tasks that go into Christmas preparation, like purchasing gifts, decorating the house, and making Christmas magical for younger siblings. For example, give your teen a budget and send them to the mall to pick out gifts for family members and friends. You could also assign them a part of the house to clean and decorate.

6. Revamp old traditions.

Let’s face it. Most teens aren’t interested in getting a picture with Santa at the mall. Gone are the days when they would be tucked in bed wearing their Christmas pajamas before 8 p.m. and jumping on your bed to wake you at the crack of dawn Christmas morning.

These changes don’t mean the fun Christmas traditions are over. It just means they could use a little revamping in order to make new memories. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Have a movie night. Break out the milk and cookies and settle in to watch a Christmas classic. When my brother and I got older, our family started watching It’s a Wonderful Life every Christmas Eve. It’s now my favorite movie of all time —not just for Christmas.
  • Shop for ugly Christmas sweaters. Ugly Christmas sweaters are all the rage these days. Take your teen out to their favorite store and get them a Christmas sweater to rock at their next white-elephant gift exchange.
  • Dig out those old photos and home videos. Believe it or not, your kids probably miss the good old days too. Pull out the photo albums and home videos and make a night of it. While you stroll down memory lane, ask what some of their favorite Christmas memories are and share some stories of when you were their age.
  • Take pictures at your local Christmas-lights display. Once upon a time, you would hold little hands and guide them over to sit on Santa’s lap at the mall. While most teens wouldn’t be thrilled to do this now, you can still get pictures of them having a great time. In fact, if you get a nice shot of your teen at the Christmas lights display, you might catch them posting it on Instagram!

Make memories that last

This Christmas, take time away from hectic schedules and distracting phones and be present with your teenager. Be intentional in your conversations, and get to know what’s on their heart —what they care about and what makes them laugh. Set boundaries that foster quality time while also giving your teen freedom to go out with friends or take responsibility for Christmas prep.

Remember: you and your teen are navigating this season together —so use this time to have fun and make memories that last.

Copyright © 2020 by FamilyLife. All rights reserved.

Alex McMurray is a writing intern for FamilyLife at Cru headquarters in Orlando. She graduated from Cedarville University with a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and a concentration in child and family studies. She grew up in Slippery Rock, Pennsylvania with her parents and older brother. In her free time, she enjoys going on outdoor adventures with her friends and playing card games.