Easing Teens Into Holiday Mix

Raising teen-agers is challenging enough most of the year, but when the holidays arrive, things can get even testier.

Kate Kelly, author of The Complete Idiot's Guide to Parenting a Teen-ager, shares some tips on The Early Show to help parents and teens stay on an even keel.

Family get-togethers, trips to the grandparents, visiting that relative who's going to make a fuss about your child's nose earring, blue hair or style of dress can fuel family arguments during an already pressure-packed holiday season, beginning with Thanksgiving.

Kelly, the mother of three daughters between the ages of 10 to 18, says anticipating teen-family problems and tensions are the best way to be prepared for the holidays.

The following are some of her suggestions to facilitate a peaceful and fun holiday season:

Make family activities a priority

There's always a degree of family stress when teen-agers are involved in family activities, but tell yours that family obligations are mandatory during the holidays, suggests Kelly.

Despite what your teens might say, they really doesn't want to be left out of family holiday traditions. Remind them that their friends also have similar family obligations during the holidays, she adds.

Provide a holiday schedule

Write down a schedule with dates and times when family activities are planned so your teens can plan their schedules, she notes.

Include specific times for helping with cooking, running errands, baby-sitting and volunteer work. This is a good time to set family values, she says.

Set limits

Stress increases when teens' schedules take priority over the family's. The Thanksgiving holiday and days off from school should not mean five nights out with friends. Make it clear, in advance, which nights belong to your teens and which ones are for family, Kelly suggests.

Offer some flexibility

Most teens don't want to spend hours with the family. If a four-hour visit with relatives is "too long and boring," let yours leave early if it's geographically possible.

One thing about teen-agers is they don't plan ahead - and this includes their friends. So keep in mind that something fun may come up at the last minute, she adds.

Require a dress code

Disagreeing over clothes is a given. A coat and tie might not go well with blue hair or a nose ring, but if it's a grandmother's request, it should be worn.

Make sure your teens know the dress code in advance. Even teens are capable of understanding that they should be respectful of other people's wishes.

Encourage relatives not to be critical

Rules shouldn't only be for teens. Relatives can increase family stress by openly disapproving of your teens. If your child hs a nose ring or pumpkin-colored hair, remind your relatives that critical comments are out of line.

Encourage thoughtfulness during the holidays

Teens are very focused on themselves. Encourage your teens to think about others - whether it's running errands for Thanksgiving or shopping for holiday gifts - and about what's important at this time of the year, she adds.

©1999 CBS Worldwide Inc. All Rights Reserved