Holiday Traditions & Non-Traditional Conversations

The holidays are in full swing, and now that my daughter is a teen, I find that we’re slowly transitioning to her taking on more of the traditions.  She can make a gift-giving budget, and select presents for friends. She’s very capable of decking our halls and baking holiday treats, although I was gratified when she asked for help with a cookie recipe last night.

We’re at a very sweet spot in our relationship where she is still open to suggestions and occasionally seeks guidance, so we get to enjoy many of the holiday activities together even though I’m shifting to more of a backseat role.

I’m passing down family traditions, and encouraging her to find the beauty in them while adding her own twist and creativity. I’m trying to impart to her what matters most – family and fun, not perfection.

Thinking back on how we are celebrating together with her taking more responsibility, it struck me that I’m teaching her how to celebrate. To me, that feels both exciting and a bit overwhelming. This time of year, when we can all become so overwhelmed, I want to make sure that I’m teaching her well.

For so many, celebration goes hand in hand with alcohol, so it’s a huge opportunity to teach her about how to make good and responsible choices, and the best ways are to show her and to talk about those choices. The experts say to look out for moments when you can chime in organically and it turns out that this month is full of those moments. Here are a few things about celebrating that I hope to teach my daughter:

I hope to teach her that alcohol can be one part of a celebration but it doesn’t have to be the focus, and that you can make memories and share laughs with friends and family no matter what beverages are available.

I want her to know that she can and should say no (as well as knowing how to say “no”) to anyone offering her alcohol when she’s underage, including family members, and that’s more than okay.

My goal is to show her that dealing with stress, holiday-induced or otherwise, doesn’t have to involve wine. I’m hoping that we can enjoy some steaming cups of tea or mugs of hot chocolate (with extra marshmallows) together, and that I don’t need alcohol to feel better.

Hopefully she will see that I never have a drink when driving, and she’ll hear (or overhear) that my husband and I always designate a driver prior to heading out to celebrate with friends.

We’ll likely talk about why I can drink as an adult and she as a teen cannot, including because I’m done growing, and because with age comes privilege (and more responsibility, like paying the credit card bill after the holidays).

She’ll see that part of being an adult for me means enjoying wine with a holiday meal or ringing in the new year with champagne, and that I can enjoy a drink as part of a special event as long as I do so responsibly.

My hope is that the time spent together both preparing and celebrating will help us continue to build a strong relationship, one that helps her develop a positive self-image, which makes healthy choices a bit easier. I want my child to know that she can talk to me about anything at any time and that when she has questions, be it about cookie baking, or alcohol, or anything else, I’ll be here, ready to ask, listen, love and celebrate.

Shannan Younger, creator of Mom Factually and contributor on Tween Us at ChicagoNow.

Shannan Younger is a writer living with her husband and tween daughter in the suburbs of Chicago. She writes about parenting adventures on the blog Mom Factually and on Tween Us at ChicagoNow. She also writes at Chicago Parent and her work has been featured by the BBC, the Chicago Tribune and theFamily Online Safety Institute. Her works has also appeared on Mamapedia, The Erma Bombeck Writer’s Workshop, Mamalode. She was honored to have essays included in the anthologies The HerStories Project: Women Explore the Joy, Pain, and Power of Female Friendship and My Other Ex and is a proud alum of the Listen to Your Mother. She is a native of Ohio who received her undergraduate and law degrees from Notre Dame.
*The views and opinions expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility ( or any member.*