Gone are the days of paper pilgrim hats and storytelling—and it can get nerve wracking preparing for a holiday with a teenager. Who will show up? The sweet kid who laughs at your uncle’s jokes, or the pre-teen who would rather hide out in their room than be downstairs entertaining guests. The teen years can be hard for all parties involved, but it doesn’t mean you can’t have a little fun!
Keeping them off their phone may be a long shot, but you can take advantage of their internet obsession. Have them search the rabbit holes of YouTube to create a Thanksgiving playlist filled with songs, funny video clips, and tutorials. Then, let them share their findings with family so they feel involved during holiday activities. It’s always more fun when Aunt Susan can crack a smile at a cat video.
Have a crafty teen? They can also look up festive, Pinterest-worthy Thanksgiving recipes and crafts. From place cards to appetizers—you may be pleasantly surprised what they will create! For the more tech-savvy teens, encourage them to take photos and record the highlights of the day on their phone. They can use free video editing software to splice the clips together, and you’ll have a heart-warming homemade video to remember the day.
Thank the chef
Ready for the pumpkin pie? How about the stuffing, casseroles, turkey? Thanksgiving is, hands down, one of the best holidays to get your creative culinary juices flowing. In the days leading up to Thanksgiving, have older kids pick out a simple recipe they can cook themselves to test for the big day. When festivities begin, get your teen involved and teach them a family-favorite recipe. You’ll get them off their phones, into a filled kitchen, and they can learn new cooking skills—even if it just peeling the potatoes or putting rolls in the oven!
Tia Van Pelt, a local mom from Piedmont, has her tween daughter, Tessa, help because it makes her daughter more involved in the holiday happenings.
“To get my daughter involved, I have her do things like peel potatoes, set the table, make the list, go to the store with me, help with shopping, and pick out or make decorations. I feel this gives her some ownership in the event,” explained Tia. “I have her help cook, too. She watches my mom and I do the turkey, but I have her help with most of the other items. I like to have her help if there is a lot of measuring to get her used to reading the measuring cup. I have her read the recipe, and if she is unsure on a step—I have her tell me what she thinks it is asking. And of course both kids get to help clean up!”
Shannon Jindra, another local mom from Box Elder, gives Thanksgiving Day jobs to her kids so the adults can relax and not worry about things like the dishes.
“We do try and get them involved as much as possible with the prep work for cooking the meal, but honestly the thing we have them help with most is clean up. When we go home, we have multiple Thanksgivings to attend, but we have one that is very large and we usually have it at my parent’s church. The tweens and teenagers did all the dishes the last time we had it, which left the parents to be able to visit with family,” explained Shannon.
You’ve got this
Your home will probably be packed on the holidays with dozens of extended family members. Make your tween feel like an adult and give them a job with the guests. This can be something like being in charge of games, making sure everyone gets drinks, babysitting younger kids, or hanging up everyone’s coats when they come in.
“We have had Thanksgiving at our home a couple times. We only had grandparents come over, but I had Tessa greet everyone and get them drinks—coffee, tea, water, or punch—which she had made,” said Tia.
It’s all fun and games
When planning for the big day, include games they’ll enjoy. While the younger children are doing crafts and kids games, tweens can feel left out. Plan some tween-appropriate activities; whether that is outdoor sports like soccer or cornhole, board games like Monopoly or Apples to Apples, or unique games like bobbing for apples or sack racing. Want to really throw your teen through a loop? Recreate some nostalgia and revisit childhood together by doing some of your favorite things growing up.
Remember, they’re making memories that will last a lifetime—even if they’re not jumping up and down for the pumpkin pie you’ve spent hours on. Tweens and teens have a way of acting underwhelmed even when they’re having a ball. You’ve tried your hardest to get them involved, happy, and feeling loved—that’s the best you
can do. Now sit down and dig into that turkey leg!