Parenting Tips Countdown
Ringing in the New Year often involves resolving to do things differently in the upcoming year. Many of us will be more than happy to celebrate the end of 2020. But why not make the most of the remaining days this year? We’ve got you covered with a countdown of 21 things to do now with and for your teens. Ring in 2021 with 21 parenting tips!
Day 1: Indulge in Self-Care
Teach your teen that self-care is more than just a day off. It’s taking action to care for yourself and investing in relationships and hobbies. Overcommitted, stressed-out teens need to hear that self-care is an important part of staying healthy. Tell your teen to commit 10 minutes to their self-care today. Meditate. Write in a journal. Workout. Choose any healthy activity that makes them feel good! Double the impact by practicing self-care together, and let your teen watch and learn from you.
Day 2: Write a Letter
Got an adolescent at home? Writing an old-fashioned letter makes for a family souvenir they can read again and again. Welcome them to “teendom” with written words of unconditional love. Share a special story about them that they may not know. It’s a powerful way of letting them know how much they mean to you. Then, pass along the pen and ask them to imagine how their story unfolds.
Day 3: Explore Where to Best Focus Your Energy
Do the holidays stress you and your teen out? Get ahead of the stress. Help them gain focus by saving energy for those things that are under their control. Worrying about what’s outside of our control zaps energy. It makes it hard to address the problems we can actually fix. Take a walk with your teen and talk about how to spot the difference between what we can and cannot control. You might even share the serenity prayer: “Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.”
Day 4: Acknowledge Your Teen’s Best Attributes
Whip up two cups of tea or hot chocolate and take a moment to acknowledge something you appreciate about them. Are they thoughtful, resilient, or kind? What makes them this way? Noticing and building on your teen’s areas of strength helps them thrive.
Day 5: Take a Self-Compassion Break Together
Teach your teen about the importance of self-compassion. For ten minutes today, choose one of these self-compassion activities to do together. (1) Write a letter to yourself from the perspective of a kind friend. What do you wish someone would say to you to ease your worries? (2) Wrap your arms around yourself and give a big squeeze. (3) List good things about yourself and your life. Keep writing until the timer goes off. (4) Focus on your breathing for ten full minutes. Notice each breath coming in and out. Enjoy the calm.
Day 6: Celebrate an Achievement
You know all those negative things you hear about teens? Teens internalize those messages and start to believe them. That’s why now is the perfect time to tell your adolescent how awesome they are. When did they have their first thoughtful argument? Develop their first deep friendship? Earn a new freedom after showing they were responsible? Make it an occasion with a Kool & The Gang dance party and “Celebrate Good Times … Come On!”
Day 7: Praise Your Teen for Doing Good
When was the last time you praised your teen for being good? Teens seek parental approval just as younger children do. Noticing the positive can go far to prevent the negative. One of the best discipline strategies has nothing to do with punishment. It’s about noticing what your teen is doing right. Think about it this way: if you’re always focused on problems, you keep drawing attention to negative behavior. Today, make it a point to recognize when your teen does something right. Make it clear that those are the actions you desire.
Day 8: Instill the Love of Reading in Your Teen
Reading is a great escape from stress and helps teens develop more patience, energy, and resilience. But how can parents help their teens enjoy these benefits if they don’t like to read? Spark your teen’s interest in reading with one of these actionable tips today. Look for appealing, age-appropriate books for your teen from your local library, Goodwill, or a garage sale. Start a household “book club” by selecting a book, each reading it separately, and discussing your thoughts together when done. Or, encourage them to read about nonfiction topics they are interested in, such as race and equity, climate change, or politics.
Day 9: Give Your Teen a Hug
Do you know who needs a hug right now? Your teen. Drop everything and go hug your teen. It helps reduce stress and improve health. Teens are longing for physical contact, especially right now. Show your child you love them and are there for them. Share a warm, adoring embrace. Just because.
Day 10: Create a Teen Behavior Contract
Partner with your teen on a strategy that supports their growth. Sit down together and draw up a behavior contract. Ask your teen about a privilege they really want (e.g., later curfew? to borrow the car?). Then create a step-by-step plan that keeps them safe and you informed, all while allowing them to reach their end goal. Your teen will gain as much from the collaborative process as they will from following the plan.
Day 11: Make a Plan to Deal With Stress
Teens need tools to manage stress. Today, help your teen build a stress management plan. Create a plan with plenty of strategies for their coping-with-stress toolbox. The plan should include ways to stay physically active, eat healthily, and get enough sleep. It also should offer ways to express their emotions — think art, writing, or talking things out. And it should help them figure out what’s causing their stress and ways to tackle it — like breaking things down into smaller, manageable pieces.
Day 12: Recognize a Milestone
Remember how you gushed over your baby’s first words and first steps? Apply that same type of amazement to your teen because they are still incredible! To be pro-development means you cherish every stage. Today, celebrate one of their incredible teen milestones together with a mini-family party. Make some homemade party hats and confetti and whoop it up!
Day 13: Tell Your Teen a Story
Your teen is trying to answer the question, “Who am I?” And parents are essential for showing them how to talk about life events. Pull out some family photos and share a fond memory from your childhood. Talk about how it’s part of who you are today. Sharing stories about yourself may help them better understand who they are and where they’ve come from.
Day 14: Be Kind
Kindness comes with plenty of benefits. Being kind makes others feel good. It also releases serotonin, making you feel good too. Kind acts also release oxytocin, which reduces stress and anxiety, and relieves pain. Find a way to show a small act of kindness together today. Write a letter to an elderly relative or friend, donate old books to your local library, or offer to walk your neighbor’s dog.
Day 15: Take a Mini-Vacation
When’s the last time you went on a holiday? There’s no time like now to take an instant vacation. They are free and offer a break from school, relationships, and stress. Recharge and take a mini-vacation with your teen today. Disconnect with a long walk, explore nature, or listen to music. Get creative by doodling or painting. Meditate or read together.
Day 16: Make a New Memory
For many families, the holiday season offers an opportunity to make memories that will last a lifetime. It may feel harder to make memories this year, but there are still plenty of ways to connect at home! Try something new and get creative. Help your teen re-decorate their room. Take an art class together on YouTube. Ask your teen to suggest something new you can try together.
Day 17: Talk Together (And Get Your Teen Talking)
Having trouble getting your teen to open up about how they are feeling about COVID-19? Try talking while doing some “side-by-side” activities. Some teens find it easier to tackle tough topics when they aren’t looking right at us. Bake some cookies, play cards, or take a drive and ask them what’s on their mind.
Day 18: Give Back Together
There are many health benefits to giving back. Teens who volunteer are less likely to drink or do drugs, have less stress, and ultimately live longer than peers who don’t pitch in. Join forces with your teen and get out and volunteer your time and energy today. Help out at a local food bank, sell old household items for charity, or virtually visit the elderly at a local senior center. Even the smallest acts of generosity can make a big difference.
Day 19: Get Moving
When was the last time you participated in physical activity with your teen? Active teens are less likely to develop obesity and more likely to go to college. Exercise improves focus, concentration, and helps manage stress. Get out and toss a football, create a Tik Tok dance, or do a home exercise video together. Find a physical activity that interests them and get moving!
Day 20: Take a Tech Break
Technology has its pros and cons. But it’s no doubt digital devices have tightly woven themselves into the fabric of our everyday lives. Take a tech time-out and give each other your full attention. Turn off the computer, hide the remotes, and resolve to keep those phones out of reach for a few hours. Use the free time to connect in-person whether you share some jokes, tell stories, or play some old-fashioned games (Charades anyone?).
Day 21: Tell Your Teen You Love Them
Stand up and walk over to your teen. Tell them you love them, just because. Express that you love them just as they are. Your unconditional love offers security and gives your child the building blocks for healthy future relationships. Today, help your teen love themselves by telling them how much you love them.
Welcome in the New Year together with your teens!
Author: Delsea Albanese, with contributions by Eden Pontz and Elyse Salek