Teenagers and Thanksgiving

Make your teenager's move from the kids' table easy-peasy by setting a few simple guidelines. Everyone will be thankful!

Hosting a holiday gathering requires a method, a checklist and plenty of planning. And, if you have teenagers, you might need to hold a 20- to 30-minute confab a week or two before the festivities to discuss what's required of them.

Remember, while family time tends to fall a notch or two on the adolescent "fun" list, most teens are probably still looking forward to taking part in traditions, as well as transitioning into relied-upon members of your clan. Just approach the "what we expect from you" talk as a conversation—not a lecture. "The more you treat teens as young adults, the more adult they'll behave," says Laurence Steinberg, Ph.D., author of You and Your Adolescent. Here's how to tackle common indigestion-causing issues:

What (not) to wear: Experts say to pick your battles on this one—and compromise. "Clothes really matter on a college or internship interview, but there should be room within the family for a more relaxed approach," says Barbara Pachter, a corporate etiquette coach and author of The New Essentials of Business Etiquette. If the dress code is formal-ish, but your son wants to wear jeans, discuss what outfits could be a middle ground. The jeans might be OK as long as the top is a button-down tucked in with a belt, for example.

Unplugging and engaging in good old-fashioned conversation is one of those life skills young people need—and the holiday dinner table is the perfect place to hone it. Make the meal a smartphone-free zone for kids and adults, and state that clearly before everyone takes a seat.

Helping out: Don't bark orders, but instead explain why everyone's effort is needed. If you want your teen to help clear the table and load the dishwasher, tell him that while the holidays are fun, they're also a lot of work. The faster the work is done, the sooner everyone can watch the football game. After your child steps up, remember to say thank you.


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