Hint: It involves food.

By Stacey Ballis
December 21, 2020
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Let’s start by acknowledging that under the best of circumstances, living with teenagers is a complicated, fraught, difficult thing. Add in ten months of lockdown, Zoom-school, and loss of freedom, not to mention being old enough to have to process the stressors of the adult world that are front and center right now, on top of the usual teenage angst and hormones, and it is a wonder that they can even get out of bed in the morning. And now, you have to think Christmas break. A time when usually they could be taking some independent time to hang with their friends, find their own ways to celebrate, blow off steam. But not this year. So how can you make this Christmas season special for your teens?

Food to the rescue! Here are 4 ways to lure your teen into the kitchen and some holiday spirit and celebration.

Connect around what they most love to eat.

It doesn’t matter if your teen is a junk food junkie, a newly minted vegan, or anything in between. The teenage years are often when we start to establish some personal expression through how and what we eat, and experiment with our diet. It can be easy as a parent to be either dismissive of a dietary choice as affected or a phase, or judgmental about a love of processed foods. But this is the holidays, and it might be interesting to have your teen introduce you to the super sour candies or flamin’ hot snacks they are addicted to, or their favorite frozen pizza. On the flipside, if they love instant ramen or hot wings? Maybe see if they would want to make homemade versions together.

Christmas Teens
Credit: Getty / Cavan Images

Have a mocktail party.

Teens are often too cool for the Shirley Temple, but that doesn’t mean it might not be nice to have an alternative to pop or water. There are amazing things being done these days in the realm of non-alcoholic beverages, so source some fun recipes online or pick up a copy of an alcohol-free beverage book like Julia Bainbridge’s Good Drinks and some fun nibbles and have a teen-positive friendly “cocktail” party. Tell them you’d love if they became the official booze-free bartender of the house.

Try a super fancy baking project.

A lot of teens are super into the videos of cakes that look like cars or stacks of pancakes, or the very intricate cookie decoration or molded marzipan that looks like real versions of fruits and vegetables. Ask if they would like to try to do one together! Fondant can be made easily from melted marshmallows and confectioners’ sugar, and there are all kinds of how-to videos online. Find a project that they really want to try, watch some videos and make a plan together, and be on hand to help execute their vision without too much interference.

Ask them about their ideal Christmas meal. Then make it together.

Everyone has that perfect image of a festive meal. It could be as simple as their favorite pizza in the shape of a Christmas tree, or as complicated as a multi-course traditional extravaganza. What they tell you will tell you a lot about them, and suggesting you make it happen for them is an obvious act of love. Cooking together can help teens let their guards down, and a lot of parents will say that they have the most meaningful and real conversations they can get out of their teenagers while working together in the kitchen.