Recipe for getting along at Christmas

16:00, Dec 16 2011
Eva-Maria Salikhova - author of 'You Shut Up!', a Speaker and Certified Coach and Winner of Most Inspirational Role Model at Wellington Her Business Awards 2009.

Want the recipe for happy relationships with your teenagers this Christmas?

A 21-year-old Wellingtonian reckons she has that all wrapped up.

Eva-Maria Salikhova is the best-selling author of the book You Shut Up!, an international speaker and certified coach.

She is on a mission to help improve 10,000,000 relationships between adults and teenagers around the world. On her way to her lofty goal, she writes in the Express today about ways families with teens can work towards having a fun festive season.

When asked what the biggest mistake parents made was, Salikhova said it was probably not so much not listening as not providing the right environment for their teens to open up to them.

And what about teens' mistakes? She pauses to think, and says that is probably not appreciating how good they have it.


She points out that parents today are more relaxed about boundaries than in the past. Most teens liked to know where their boundaries are and might feel the need to push the limits to find out exactly where they lay, she said.

Salikhova was born in 1990 in the Siberian city of Novosibirsk, Russia. She moved to Wellington in 1996 with her parents, younger brother and older sister.

She is working on her third book and is off to university next year.

Read more about her thoughts on parenting teens...


Christmas can quickly become one of the most stressful times of year – what with work commitments, and the worry of where to go on holiday.

In an instant, it can all become too much, especially when the idea of a family vacation brings back memories of yelling kids in the backseat, coupled with periods of silent treatment.

In sync with my newly released second book Shush, You!, I stand by the belief that you can improve relationships with your kids through small actions in just five minutes a day or less.

This rings true, especially with teenagers, when everyone, including teenagers, has less and less time. When you're on holiday, you may think you have plenty of time but the opportunities to minimise conflict are short.

So if you're thinking of taking a holiday with the family, here are some tips to make it as stress-free as possible.

1. OK, so you've decided you want some R&R this holiday period, and you've decided to go away. Like any other year, you want to make sure everyone enjoys their time but how many times have you heard the groans coming from your teen about the pain they will have to incur from going on holiday with the family?

How about you make life easier for everyone and get the travel destination planned without any stress? Sounds too good to be true, I know, but why not get the main judges to organise the holiday for the family?

Give your kids the keys – not literally, but let them take control of the situation. Give them a budget and time frame, and get them to organise the entire trip.

I love this example because it goes to show how a difficult and sometimes stressful situation can actually help you gain more trust and communication with your teen by giving them more responsibility.

2. Divide the trip into two parts: family time and alone time and alert everyone to when both of these are happening.

Although you'll want to spend time together, every holiday needs periods when you're apart in your own world to give it the right balance, and ensure everyone has a relaxing time in their own time.

If you're taking your work on holiday, dedicate your time to it for a set period every day.

The life-work balance comes into play here: You balance out the time when you need to concentrate on work tasks and the time you spend with family – it will work in everyone's favour.

3. Don't ban iPods or cellphones during the trip. This is one of the worst ideas I've ever heard.

A holiday is the time to relax, and many teenagers find relaxation during the times when they're listening to their music or communicating with friends. Look at it this way – they're not putting their music on speakerphone and making everyone listen to it.

If the headphones are turned on too loud, just ask them to respect the rest of the family and turn it down, or perhaps, if you're stuck for ideas, that could be the ultimate Christmas present for them: noise-cancelling head phones – hint, hint.

Cellphones are hard to keep away from – you may also have yours on you during holiday in case something comes up and, in a teenager's world, something is coming up every second of the day. If you want to have a "family conversation" during the trip, resort to tip 2 above, and make everyone aware and ask that cellphones get put on silent for that period, until they can resume their conversations with the outside world again.

4. Make a rule that if it's a family trip, the whole family goes. No exceptions.

That also narrows your chances of coming back to an un-supervised party house, something you won't need to worry about if your teen is the one that's made the plans for the holiday (see tip 1).

5. When conflicts arise, cut them on the spot. Take them for a walk and have a good chat to them – getting engrossed in everyday life during the year means it's hard to find time to really talk about problems your teen may be experiencing, so be aware that the greatest gift you can give them on holiday is your one-on-one time.

6. Most of all, remember to have fun. Without banning anything, or starting up arguments, remember why you went on holiday, and that was to bond, and have fun.

Happy holidaying.

 * Eva-Maria Salikhova, is 21, is based in Wellington and is author of the book You Shut Up!. She does not use her Russian surname because it is difficult to remember and pronounce. She is an international speaker and certified coach and is on a mission to help improve relationships between adults and teenagers. Read more at

The Marlborough Express