Thanksgiving is in the rearview mirror and the holiday break is right around the corner. That means two weeks of no school and a lot more at-home time with your teen.

Their first instinct might be to hang on the couch on their phone all day, which is understandable. Final exams are over and class is out for the semester, so they want to just decompress. And while this is fine for a day or two, you can also take advantage of this stretch of time together as a family.

Of course, the trick is planning activities together that your teen will actually enjoy. Yes, this was easier when they were little and wanted to write letters to Santa or decorate Christmas cookies all day. And while you might get some initial eye-rolling, your teen is sure to enjoy these fun holiday activities we’re sharing with you!


Healthy family activities over the break

Head out looking for light displays: Take a walk around your neighborhood and check out the Christmas lights. Or hop in the car and head to other areas around town. Here’s a recent list of the best light displays in Orange County.

Go for a holiday run: There are advantages to living in an area that will never have a white Christmas. One of those advantages is that you can do activities outside without bundling up like Ralphie’s little brother in A Christmas Story. So why not go for a family run? You can even combine this with the suggestion above and run through a neighborhood with cool holiday displays!

Volunteer and give back to your community: The holidays are a time for gratitude and giving thanks, but they’re also a time for giving back. Plan a day or two during break for your family to volunteer at a local shelter or other free food establishment. There are plenty of soup kitchens to choose from in Orange County.


Give the gift of your time over screen time

When you look at those activities above, they all have one thing in common: no screens!

The freedom of the holidays can often mean relaxed rules for both you and your kids when it comes to screen use. But remember, the holidays are a time for your family to enjoy being together. While this can certainly mean watching your favorite Christmas movies or laughing at funny holiday trends on TikTok, you can still set limits for screen use for you and your teen.

Here are three basic boundaries to set for screen time during the winter break:

  • No screens during mealtimes and family gatherings
  • Set limits for how much screen time your teen can have during the day
  • Try a full digital break for an hour, day, or even a week


Celebrate the holidays responsibly with your teen

One great way to spend time with your teen during the holidays is to let them host their own party at your house. They want to spend as much time as possible with their friends away from school, and you want them home as much as possible, so this is a perfect compromise! Help your teen organize and put everything together for the party, then vacate to another area of the house while they play host and hang with their friends.

Whether it’s your teen’s own holiday party, or one you’re hosting for your friends and their kids, it can be tempting to be the “cool parent” and let your teen and their friends drink at your home. After all, it’s a controlled environment, and you might even get some pressure from other parents that it’s no big deal as long as it’s under your roof.

Contrary to a widespread belief, studies have consistently disproven the notion that allowing parents to be more permissive about underage drinking at home can prevent teenagers from experimenting or engaging in excessive drinking once they’re in college.

A recent Screenagers article quoted a transcript from their documentary Screenagers Under the Influence in which Joseph Labrie, PhD, Professor of Psychology at Loyola Marymount University, said:

“You’ll hear this a lot from students, you’ll also hear it from parents that, you know, the ones who never drank in high school, they go crazy once they get to a college campus and they’re the ones who are passing out. But that’s not the reality of the data. The data says that the more you drink in high school, the more likely you are to increase your drinking in college and the more likely you are to have negative consequences.”

For you as a parent, aside from not allowing drinking under your supervision while at home, put a lock on any alcohol that’s in the house. This will prevent temptation from anyone underage in your home. And set an example by not drinking to excess yourself. If your teen sees you being irresponsible, that’s tacit permission for them to do the same.

As for your teen, offer an “exit strategy” for them at parties. If they’re out somewhere where alcohol is accessible to minors, or if they feel unsafe, let them know they can call you from anywhere and at any time, no matter what, and you’ll get them home safely.