By TMoM Team Member Dennette Bailey

Keeping teenagers engaged during normal times is no easy feat but many of us may be finding it particularly difficult during the Covid pandemic. Now that the holidays are upon us, convincing our teenagers to spend quality time with us may feel like a competition that we are surely to lose.

It is important to me to create lasting memories and traditions with my teenagers and young adult children. I started out lamenting that they are no longer young children who I might have easily convinced that a quarantine was exciting. However, I have decided for my own sanity that I need to challenge this pandemic head on. I have decided to have a competition with the pandemic, and I plan on winning.

My plan is to start with our traditional Christmas movie night in which we watch the same movies every year (Elf and Home Alone) that I have practically memorized. This means I will be performing the most important lines along with the actors. Then my children will choose a movie of their choice. We are going to end this night with a snowball fight. Even if there is no snow that will not stop us as I bought some cloth snowballs (yes you can buy snowballs) that we can use indoors. I am betting after I say the lines with the actors in the movies we watch, my children will be all too happy to throw these at me.

The next night we are going to have a gingerbread craft day. There will be a choice of real gingerbread or paper gingerbread houses.

Then, we will set up a hot chocolate bar. The menu consists of dark, milk and peppermint hot chocolate, coffee (because it just tastes better), TruWhip (instead of whip cream) marshmallows, Reese’s Pieces, peppermint bark, vanilla ice cream and cinnamon. I have a variety of Christmas mugs that we have collected throughout the years and I am hoping that after everyone makes their hot chocolate they will not retreat to their own rooms.

Another night we will write and send out holiday cards. My hope is that this will be an opportunity that we can come up with ideas on things we can do the upcoming year to be a light in the lives of people we care about. I think sometimes we are so concerned with doing for strangers who are unfortunate (and this is good) but sometimes we forget to show extra love to those close to us who may be suffering in ways that we cannot know or understand. We will complete our family nights with a simple reminiscing over old photos that stay tucked away in a closet on actual photo paper.

The trick I believe will be to do all of this before Christmas. Each day that my children participate I will put presents under the tree. I realize this sounds like a bribe now, but what I know is if I rely on or wait on them to be happy about my plans – we might not do these activities. I can appreciate that they might not see the value in all this family time until they either have children of their own or someone close is lost. However, I know that as their mom I have the power to keep them from wishing that they had participated if I simply just make it worth their while. I am confident we will have loads of fun, but I am not willing to take the chance that the pandemic will outwit me and deter cheerful participation.

My hope is to remind them that there is a reason why Home Sweet Home is such a popular phrase. It is not just because there are sweets and treats at home, although that helps. Family makes the home sweet. While the pandemic has tried to conquer this time of year, I am determined to win a sweet victory.

And how will I know I won the competition against the pandemic? It will take some time- because my trophy will be presented to me when my children (no matter the circumstances) carry on my traditions with their children and invite me to their versions of hot chocolate bars, holiday movie nights and snowball fights.

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