The cheesy Holiday Christmas Movie craze continues to grow every year. Starting with the Hallmark channel, there’s now original content every year from Netflix, Lifetime, and last year Disney Plus came on the scene with Noelle. We usually think of moms watching these movies with a glass of wine, texting a friend, after the household is asleep. However, many of these movies are doing what Young Adult and Teen romance books have done for a long time with their heartwarming, funny and chaste romantic plotlines.

In fact, the 2019 release Let it Snow on Netflix, was based on a book of stories written by John Green, Maureen Johnson, and Laureen Myracle, three well known young adult authors. This year, Hallmark will release its first LGBT+ storyline, a topic young adult literature has been much more open to, and it stars Jonathan Bennet, who was in the ever-popular teen movie Mean Girls

So, for parents and family of teens, might there be a way to connect to your teen through the watching of cheesy holiday movies and books? A late-night marathon of Christmas movies one Friday this holiday season is a no-to-low cost way to spend some time together. The following are some suggestions to encourage reading, conversation and connection with your teen through the holidays.   

Creative Family Movie Night

When trying to please multiple family members, an impromptu movie night might lead to more contention than bonding, so plan ahead of time. If the goal is to watch as many as possible over the Christmas season, make a checklist or have everyone write a suggestion on a slip of paper and pull a nightly winner out of a jar. If you are trying to have quality time with one of your teens, let them choose and open with questions about their selection. Consider creating a snack menu that matches the movie. Is it about a small-town baker? Decorate some cookies before you huddle up on the couch. Does it star one of your teen idols? Introduce your teen to their music, television show or movie from your era. 

Make a Game Night

Last year I made cheesy holiday movie Bingo cards for our family. With squares like, “Santa Gives Advice”, “Kiss in the Snow”, “Tree Trimming Scene”, “Moves Back to Hometown”, and “Magical Family Heirloom” we added another humorous element to our holiday movie marathons. Choose a prize ahead of time and see who gets to declare “Bingo!” first. Other options could include an “I Spy” style scavenger hunt or writing out predictions to guess the movie ending or romance, surprise characters who show up, the food and desserts served or which Christmas carols will be sung. While these games can encourage laughter and conversation, you are also practicing reading skills with observations, predictions, understanding tropes, motifs and finding themes.

Movie Watching Book Club

Like the aforementioned feature Let it Snow, consider reading the novel before or after with your child to talk about which you like better—the book version or the movie. Or consider gifting, borrowing from the library, or sharing holiday stories appropriate for your child or teen’s age and interest level. This is something you can do with the whole family for traditional stories like The Nutcracker, or A Christmas Carol, reading and watching different versions. For modern retellings or new and fresh stories, try the young adult novels The Afterlife of Holly Chase, My True Love Gave to Me: Twelve Holiday Stories, or Pride and Prejudice and Mistletoe. Some popular series authors have done special holiday books that might be fun to read separately or aloud together, such as The Princess Diaries or Dash and Lilly.  For older, mature teens, several Hallmark channel movies have been based on romance novels or novellas, including A December Bride, Coming Home for Christmas, The Christmas Train and the Mrs. Miracle series.

Conversation Starters

The romance in this genre of movie is, shall we say, a bit unrealistic. Princes and knights out of time, convenient run-ins with high school sweethearts, and the perfect job always waiting in the new small town the lead character was forced to visit, all within the convenient span of a holiday vacation. Each crazy situation lends itself to a conversation starter regarding relationships. Is what happens in the movie something your teen hopes for? What felt unrealistic or concerning to them? What challenges or sweet parts of dating did the movie leave out? Watching older movies like Love Actually or The Cutting Edge (not a Christmas movie, but a cheesy romance classic with a Winter Olympic figure skating plot) could introduce discussions about how dating has changed—the language, expectations and concerns. 

Include Friends

One thing I learned from my parents is that any inconvenience caused by your house being the teen hang out is easily overshadowed by the benefits. When I was a teen, my house was often the movie night hang out spot, so much that my mom was given her favorite candy and information on group plans in exchange for a comfy couch and a freezer stocked with pizza minis. Does your teen have a close friend or dating partner you need to get to know? Ask if they’d invite them over for movie night and provide the snacks. A cheesy holiday movie-themed party might be an easy way to host a young friend gathering.