How should I handle our changing family celebrations?

Celebrations and rituals are essential – they’re part of the glue that keeps families together. Many holiday rituals, such as trick-or-treating or a visit to Santa, are aimed at young children. Other family traditions involve all the generations: Thanksgiving, the Fourth of July, Kwanzaa, the Passover Seder. In spite of the work involved, parents look forward to these annual celebrations as a time for family togetherness. But as kids reach ten to thirteen years old, they may no longer want to participate in the same ways, if at all. Instead of being excited about an upcoming event, a twelve-year-old may shock and disappoint his parents by asking, “Do I have to go?”

By these ages, some kids reject family traditions because they’re beginning to be self-conscious or don’t see the purpose anymore. A child may feel awkward about dressing up, playing games, and being in the spotlight. He wonders what others think of him: “Do I look stupid in this costume?” He may feel he’s outgrown a celebration: “I’m too old for parades!” Because twelve- and thirteen-year-olds are easily embarrassed, they may not want to be seen with their parents, especially if friends are around: “I don’t want to go to the fireworks with you. I’d rather go with Gwen.”

It’s sad for parents when certain rituals end. Adults who’ve enjoyed decorating Easter eggs and hosting cake-and-ice-cream birthday parties don’t want to give up the close times they’ve had with their child. His reluctance to participate in holidays reminds them of his growing independence and inevitable separation.

Still, people of all ages need family traditions. If your child is beginning to reject your rituals, you can make some accommodations while still reinforcing the importance of celebrating together.

For example, try changing the way you mark a holiday. One mother who always decorated for Halloween didn’t want to give up the tradition when her children became teenagers. Now she decorates only the hallway for trick-or-treaters to see, and her children, though perhaps “too old” for the holiday, like seeing the ritual continued.

Your child may feel better about family celebrations if you modify the circumstances a bit. Let him bring a friend along. Suggest that he take a Walkman or a book to a gathering; however, let him know he should spend most of his time socializing. Occasionally, you might limit the amount of time you spend at family get-togethers. You’ll have fewer struggles if you bend a little.

Create new celebrations to mark the changes in your child’s life. On the last day of school, go out to dinner. Finish the sport’s season with a special lunch. One ten-year-old prompted her family to start an annual Kids’ Day.

There are some holidays you won’t want to change. If certain celebrations are very important, let your child know he has to take part: “We always go to midnight mass on Christmas eve.” “You have to spend Passover with us at Aunt Lil’s.” In busy times these events bring your family together and give it an identity. As your child grows, these annual celebrations will become the traditions he remembers and carries on.

Picture Credit : Google