Christmas is one of my very favorite times of the year. I love the movies, the music and all the fun decorations that come with this season. It is a time of year that is filled with joy and laughter. It’s when teenagers get a break from school and college students finally get to come home for more than a long weekend. For my family, it means watching White Christmas, decorating the tree as a family and reading The Polar Express. It truly is (in my opinion) the most wonderful time of the year!

Hopefully you read our blog around Thanksgiving about Promoting Thankfulness, but I would like to think of this as a follow up piece for the next holiday! While it is important to make teenagers a part of the Thanksgiving season, it is just as important to give them a place and purpose during Christmas-time.

So how can we involve our teenagers? How can we help them give back on limited budgets and limited attention spans? Instead of getting frustrated when they don’t jump up to contribute, let’s get creative and come up with ways to involve our younger friends.


Let them pick the presents. 

Do you typically buy presents for your spouse or other children and say it’s from your teenager? Instead of just putting their name on the gift tag, involve your teenager in the present picking process. Ask them, “What do you think dad would like this year?” Whether you give them a budget and let them buy the present or just ask for their input, it makes them more invested in the giving part of the holiday.

You have a great opportunity to start training your teenager on how to pick out thoughtful gifts. Their wife or husband will thank you one day for the groundwork you are laying by involving them in this one simple thing.


Do a gift exchange. 

If your teenager has a limited budget and can’t afford gifts for the whole family, do a gift exchange. Maybe make this a Christmas Eve tradition! Have each family member draw a name and pick out a present for that person. It would also be a good idea to set a budget for everyone (ex. only presents that are under $20). This gives them the opportunity to pick out a special gift for at least one person each year and the fun part is that it changes each year you do it!

Another similar idea would be to do a Secret Santa leading up to Christmas. Have each family member draw a name on December 1st and ask them to surprise their person with at least 3 little gifts before Christmas. These could be simple gifts like a favorite sonic drink, a small basket of candy, a $5 gift card to their favorite fast food restaurant, or a pair of super comfy socks! The mystery and fun of picking out surprises is a small way to get them involved. For either of these options, try this site to pick the names!


Give gifts from the heart.

Make a tradition of doing at least one present that doesn’t cost any money but is just as thoughtful. Encourage everyone to make a gift, or give something that takes time instead of money. Here are a few ideas for teenagers:

  • Chore card – offer to do one chore that is usually done by someone else for a week.
  • Create a CD or playlist full of songs you think that person will love
  • Decorate a journal and write notes or encouragement
  • Date night – offer to watch the other kids so your parents can go out
  • TV control card – let another person pick the movie or tv show for 5 nights of their choosing

Even if it doesn’t cost money, the thought that they put into these presents will make them even more valuable.


Come up with a new tradition. 

Finally, ask your teenager to give up time instead of money. If you already have too many Christmas traditions, maybe you should skip this idea, or you could swap a tradition instead. I would suggest that you have your teenager come up with a tradition. Not only will it then be something that they will be more inclined to do, but when they complain about having other plans or not wanting to be home that night, you can remind them that it was their idea!

I love Christmas traditions, but they often come from traditions your family had when you were little or things that you decided on before you even had kids. Let your teenagers take ownership of this holiday and ask what they want to do! Do they want to watch a certain movie every year? Or look at Christmas lights? Or have breakfast for dinner and hot chocolate? Make it fun and something they want to do!

Do you think your teenager will like any of these ideas? What other ways do you get your kids involved in the holiday season? Please share them with us below!

Karlie Duke was in one of Teen Life’s original support groups and now is our Communications Director. She is passionate about encouraging students to live better stories.