Monday, November 25, 2013

School’s Out! (Uh, Oh) Tips for Avoiding Family Conflict During the Holidays

The holiday season can be a wonderful opportunity for families to reconnect, and for both parents and children to spend a bit of leisurely time together away from the stresses and pressures of work and school.

But as every parent of a teenager knows, an excess of free time isn’t necessarily such a good thing – especially when it comes to keeping your child out of trouble and your family out of conflict.

The following are a few tips for increasing the odds that your holiday season will be free of raised voices, slammed doors and other symptoms of family conflict. 
Establish Rules & Consequences 

Regardless of whether your children are adolescents, teens or even young adults, it’s important that you let them know exactly what expect of them (for example, curfews, chores, and general behavior), and what consequences will result from their failure to comply. Then be sure that you stand behind what you’ve said.

Be Reasonable & Realistic

In your ideal world, your children get up at dawn, cook you a hot nutritious breakfast, do the laundry, and then begin knocking on your neighbor’s doors to see if anyone needs any help with anything else. Back here in reality, though setting acceptable standards begins with managing your own expectations.

· With these thoughts in mind, craft a list of behavioral expectations that are both realistic and reasonable. Make rules that your children are capable of following

· Establish penalties that offer an opportunity for rehabilitation instead of existing merely for retribution.

· When talking to your children about family rules, make sure that the communication takes the form of a discussion, not a lecture.

· Of course, if your child has proven himself unworthy of your trust, then this factor needs to be addressed when talking about rules.

· Discussions about rules and expectations are excellent opportunities to talk about the power of trust – including how it is gained and lost.

It’s also not a bad idea to remember that age-old military maxim: Never give a command that you’re not ready and willing to enforce.

Keep ‘em Busy

When it comes to your kids and good behavior, boredom is not your friend.

Whether you’re enlisting their help in decorating the house, sending them to the neighbor’s house to shovel the driveway, or taking everyone to the mall for some last- minute shopping, the more activities you engage them in, the less opportunity they’ll have to sneak away and engage in off-limits behaviors.

Develop a list of age-appropriate assignments and activities for your children – and be sure to balance “family time” with opportunities for your kids to enjoy moments of independence.

Share the Burden

In your effort to keep your kids on the proverbial straight and narrow, don’t think you have to “go it alone.”

If you anticipate having problems with your teen’s behavior, contact the school guidance counselor or ask your family doctor for a referral to a mental health professional. Also, the Internet features a variety of resources (from professionals to parents who are experiencing the same challenges you are) to help you learn more about helping teens behave appropriately.

If your teen is exhibiting particularly troubling attitudes or behavior patterns, know that there is help for these situations as well.

Enjoy the Opportunity

Yes, having a teen or two underfoot for a few weeks can be a stressful experience – but it’s also the stuff that memories are made of.

· Take advantage of every opportunity you have to let your children know that you love them and are proud of them.

· Kind words may not be a cure-all for every problem your family is experiencing – but their absence can make bad situations a whole lot worse.

· Have high expectations for your children, and don’t be shy about letting them know when they’ve been “caught” doing something great.

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