‘Tis the Season… Or, Maybe ‘Tisn’t

Dear Mr. Dad: When our daughter was younger, Christmas was her favorite holiday and she looked forward to it all year. Now that she’s 13, she refuses to celebrate it. Christmas is always a big deal in our house. How do we convince our daughter to participate and enjoy this special holiday?

A: Generally speaking, young children love the Christmas holidays because of what they see as the magical and enchanting atmosphere–beautifully decorated houses, Christmas trees, sleigh bells ringing, Santa Claus coming to town, and opening gifts on Christmas morning (not necessarily in that order). Even in my house—and many others—where we celebrate Hanukah, I love to pack the kids into the car and drive around town oohing and aahing over the amazingly elaborate light displays. And yes, some of that gift-opening magic has rubbed off on us too.

Many people carry their love of Christmas into their adult lives as well. They continue to enjoy the Christmas spirit, all the pageantry that surrounds it, and the sales.

Not knowing your daughter, I can’t say for sure why she’s suddenly channeling Scrooge, but here are some possibilities:

  • At 13, she’s a teenager, and teens are notorious for rebelling against the established order of things—even if it’s something they actually like. That sometimes includes customs and traditions.
  • In your daughter’s eyes, Christmas may be a throwback to her childhood, and since she’s no longer a child, the whole season may have lost some of its luster.
  • With all the emphasis on gift giving, she may see Christmas as a purely commercial and material holiday. (Plenty of adults feel the same way, too, which is why an increasing number of them are opting to skip Christmas altogether and go on exotic vacations instead. Or they just skip the gift-giving part and do some volunteer work).

Your first step should be to ask your daughter to explain her change of heart. If she brings up the commercial aspect and points out that the holidays in your home have become more about consumerism than the true spirit of giving, ask her how you, as a family, might celebrate Christmas differently so its true meaning can come through loud and clear. Maybe it’s a matter of giving fewer gifts and more time to each family member, or donating food and toys to less fortunate people in your community.

Whatever her reasons, be sure to listen carefully and think about how you ways to integrate her ideas into your celebration. After all, the Holidays are supposed to be about joy and peace–not just in the world, but also in your living room.

Ultimately, your goal shouldn’t be to simply convince your teenager to give Christmas another try. Instead, think about giving her some truly compelling reasons to look forward to this year’s celebration with that old twinkle in her eye.

Speaking of the Holidays, we’ve just announced the latest winners of the Mr. Dad Seal of Approval, which highlights products and services that improve father-child relationships by giving dads and kids an excuse to spend more time with each other.

This season’s winners include an Ice Age Excavation Kit from Wild Creations (wildcreations.com), Balance Math (yes, it can be fun!) from The Critical Thinking Company (criticalthinking.com), a couple of terrific word games from Patch (patchproducts.com), some stylin’ blocks from CitiBlocs (citiblocs.com), a very cool building system from Rokenbok (rokenbok.com), and a smart, family-friendly website, kabongo.com. The full list is available at mrdad.com/seal.

Wishing you all Happy Holidays and a healthy New Year!