Unforgettable Moments: How to Create Holiday Traditions That Teens Will Cherish

Holidays hold a special place in our hearts, serving as a time for connecting with loved ones and creating lasting memories. But as our children grow into teenagers, how can we preserve these family traditions? This article explores the art of creating holiday traditions that resonate with teens, offering practical tips and insights to make these moments truly unforgettable.

From incorporating their interests and ideas into the festivities to embracing new traditions that reflect their evolving tastes, we’ll delve into the secrets of making holidays meaningful for your teenager. So, let’s discover how to transform those family get-togethers into cherished memories that will warm their hearts for years to come.

Why foster holiday traditions for teens?

The number one reason? Memories. You probably knew this one, but it’s worth mentioning anyway. The holidays are prime time to create holiday traditions full of good memories. The world gets slower, and people seem a little kinder. Most people anticipate spending time with family and friends they love most. Your teen will remember decorating cookies, dancing to holiday music in the kitchen, and driving around the neighborhood to see Christmas lights for years to come.

According to Sparrow Counseling, creating meaningful holidays also gives your teen(s) more interaction with you and their siblings, helps them embrace family beliefs and values, and gives them a sense of identity and belonging.

During adolescence, teens naturally gravitate toward their friends more than family. This means you may spend less time with them than you’d like, and they may spend less time with their siblings than when they were younger.  

The holidays are a sacred time for many faith traditions. They offer a natural platform for families to discuss their beliefs and values and why they hold them dear. These reasons help your teen maintain a sense of identity and acceptance within the family. If they feel out of place anywhere else, making the holidays memorable will at least make them feel safe and loved at home.

Things to avoid when creating holiday traditions for teens

Change is inevitable. It’s likely your teenagers aren’t excited about the same holiday festivities they were into as little kids. Student Den encourages parents to consider these eight things when creating meaningful holidays:

Do no harm

Sometimes, the most loving thing you can do is to gracefully let go of some traditions and expectations.

Be flexible

Holiday schedules are hectic. Don’t make unreasonable demands on your family’s time; don’t be rigid with the festivities. If your teen doesn’t want to do the craft project this year, it’s okay.


If you are feeling frustrated or sad over holiday planning efforts: Are you being fair? Are you being respectful? Are you recognizing your growing child’s perspective? Never guilt your teen into doing activities with you.

Say what you mean and be clear about your expectations.

If decorating the tree and wearing matching PJs are non-negotiable, say that.


If you get the PJs and decorating time, let your teen do something they want to for the holidays, too (hang out with friends, eat holiday meals. with other family members, etc.)

Accept your kids are older.

C’est la vie. 

Be open to new things.

As your kids become teens, they may propose new traditions of their own, so be open to their suggestions.

Avoid comparison

You can’t keep up with the Joneses during the holidays, either. Your family is your family. Love and cherish it for what it is.

Inspo for festivities your teen will love

Raising Teens Today offers excellent ideas to get your teen into the holiday spirit. A few of our favorites include:

Plan a family “skip” day

Check work and school schedules to plan a family “skip” day during the week.

Epic holiday photoshoot fail

Remember JC Penny photoshoots? This is the epic level of commitment we need.

Make a holiday family TikTok

Can’t go wrong here – everyone loves them!

Granting holiday wishes to children and projects of their choice

Allow your teen to grant holiday wishes in their community or abroad.

Hosting a holiday game night for their friends

Do all the things, decorations, board games, snacks, and leave them to it.

Adapting holiday traditions for changing family dynamics

Family dynamics change for a variety of reasons, but two common factors are divorce and death. As we said earlier, change is inevitable. We shouldn’t expect old holiday traditions to feel the same in new family dynamics.


Psychology Today says the most important thing for kids and teens during the holidays is that both parents remain present. The critical thing to remember is that children need to have their needs met; they need to be nurtured and comforted. Spend time with them and remind them that you will always be there for them, no matter what. They need to feel a sense of security from both parents.

It also suggests that…


Holidays are never the same after losing a loved one, but they can continue…just in different ways. We found these three tips from HuffPost the most helpful.

Cut back on holiday stressors

Give yourself permission to cut back on your commitments in order to have space to heal. After losing a loved one, the office Christmas party can go without your infamous egg nog. If you feel up to that, by all means, attend the party with egg nog in tow. But it’s also okay if you don’t. The same is true with your teen. If the holiday tradition is caroling in your neighborhood, but no one feels like singing this year because grandma is no longer here, let things be.

Give mental support a try

Grief is hard and deep. Don’t be ashamed if you or your teen can’t pull themselves up from its grip alone. Accepting and addressing your loss is an important step in the grieving process. And while the holidays are a busy time, your mental and emotional well-being are too important to neglect. 

Be aware of unhealthy coping mechanisms

Exhaustion, loss of appetite and feelings of apathy and hopelessness can be signs that your grief might be putting you at risk for depression. Grief experts warn this could lead to unhealthy behaviors, like excess alcohol consumption, withdrawing from social situations or self harm.

Ways to involve teens in planning and creating holiday traditions

We talk a lot about autonomy and its importance to middle schoolers and teens as they age. Making decisions for themselves is something adolescents crave but don’t really know what to do with at this point in their lives. The holidays offer an accessible platform for your teens to make decisions independently. 

For example, instead of buying your teen what you think they want for Christmas, ask them to make a list. Tell them how many gifts they can have, include the price range (as applicable), and allow them to create the list and return it to you when complete.

Another place to give teens autonomy during the holidays is with family activities. Give them leeway to pick the holiday movies and games the family participates in this year. 

A last suggestion for involving teens in holiday planning traditions is to allow your teen to pick the destination if holiday travel is a tradition in your family. However, be sure they understand the family’s budget and needs.

Incorporating technology into your holiday traditions

Adding technology to your favorite traditions is a helpful way to keep them flexible. Here are a few ideas to add some tech to your routines:

  • Digitize those old VHS home movies and re-watch them as a family.
  • Video chat or Facetime with long-distance relatives
  • Set up a Zoom holiday bingo with cousins, aunts, and uncles and send electronic gift cards to the winners afterward.
  • Add your favorite holiday memories in digital frames and set up the morning for the kids to see…just like you did when they were little.

Is it good to continue holiday traditions with my teens as they age?

In 2011, the American Psychological Association published an article on how reminiscing about the holidays can have positive psychological effects. 

Here’s a snippet:

In contrast to a long history of theories that conceptualized nostalgia as detrimental, considerable contemporary research suggests that nostalgia can be associated with several psychological benefits. Nostalgic reminiscence helps a person maintain a sense of continuity despite the constant flow of change over time. It is reassuring to realize how rich our lives have been – how much joy, hard work, success, and excitement we have experienced. During difficult times, attention to our past can strengthen us by reminding us of how we survived challenges, loss, injury, failure, or misfortune in the past. When we are sad or discouraged, it can be uplifting to remember that we are still the person who has been happy, strong, and productive at times in the past.

Making holiday memories “stick”

If you want your teens to have all the “feels” when they think about the holidays for years to come, USA Today offers these pointers.

Record the action

Have the camera ready if your high schooler decides to run the holiday 5K in a gingerbread costume. Capturing movement is challenging. All the dog owners and parents of small children know what I mean. Burst mode can help. This feature enables your camera to take pictures faster than humanly possible. You get multiple photos for each second and can select your favorites.

Record your loved ones telling their stories.

This can be incredibly comforting for those enduring the holidays without the ones they love most. Start the tradition of recording family members at the annual Christmas party or on Thanksgiving. Set up a camera in a quiet room with good lighting and show them how to start recording when ready. It’s a keepsake you’ll have forever and can revisit however often you need to.

The little things you do to create holiday traditions with your teen add meaningful memories for years. We’ve learned that intentionally including teens in holiday planning, giving them space to do some of what they want (instead of all of what you want to do), respecting their growth, and being flexible with new traditions all equate to making the holidays more memorable. 

Start tweaking those holiday traditions with your teen today!

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