Getting Teens Unplugged, Off the Couch, and Out the Door
Video games, iPods, cell phones, and Twitter; it seems like these electronic diversions dominate teens’ lives, often to the chagrin of their parents. Watching their offspring lounge on the couch, it’s easy to despair of getting these kids active and outdoors.
In our experience, most teens enjoy outdoor activities and adventure. They just don’t always know where to go or how to get there. And when they don’t have transportation or inspiration, their natural fallback is electronics.
Finding Time and Getting Out
When kids are little, it seems like parents are always looking for ways to get them outdoors: playgroups at the playground, bike rides with the tagalong, hiking and exploring parks and river trails. With little kids, the possibilities for adventure are endless because little kids see everything as an adventure. Only rarely do they tell mom and dad, “No, I don’t want to go there.” They’re game for anything.
Not so teens. Teens crave independence. This is good and right, but it also means your teens may have strong opinions about what they want to do and when. Oftentimes, teens have very busy schedules. They have homework, sports, music, or theatre, a job and other extracurricular activities. Sometimes they’re just plain tired from growing and changing.
When you suggest fishing or a hike, they may not want to go at this particular moment. But that doesn’t mean they never want to go. They just don’t want to go right now.
Parents are busy, too. Sometimes it’s hard to find time for a bike ride or float down the river. It can be incredibly discouraging to have finally carved out some time to spend outdoors with your teen, only to have them shut the door on the expedition.
So What’s A Smart Parent To Do?
Lead By Example. Teens are much more likely to get up and out the door with a parent’s support. Don’t just suggest that your teen go for a bike ride. Go with them. And when they don’t want to go, just go yourself.
Stay active and keep inviting your kids on adventures with you. Active parents will have more active teens.
Plan Ahead. If something is on the calendar, it’s more likely to happen. Plan a adventure. Make sure everyone in the family is committed to that date and make it non-negotiable. Tell your kids, your spouse, and your friends, “This is the day we’ve agreed upon. Nothing’s gonna stand in our way.”
Teenage Trail Boss. Include your teen in choosing where to go and when. Enlist the entire family in planning the adventure, whether for a day, a weekend or a week. Give your teen specific responsibilities and let your child contribute to the success of the trip. If he or she has ideas about where to go or what to do, jump all over that and follow your teen’s lead.
Just Listen. Adults often look at outdoor activities in terms of exercise and goals. Teens are rarely motivated by burning calories or passing a milestone.
They are more interested in the experience as a whole. They’re interested in the sights along the trail, the overall experience and in slowing down with you and sharing their ideas and concerns.
Some of the best conversations I’ve had with our younger son have come while cross-country skiing or riding a chairlift at a ski resort. Out of our normal routine, with all the things that divert our attention out of sight and out of mind, we have time to connect.
Don’t worry if you don’t get to the summit of the mountain or the end of the trail. Just enjoy the conversation and fun along the way.
Some Ideas for Outdoor Adventure With Teens
No matter where you live, you can always find outdoor adventure. Here are four ideas that currently strike my fancy.
Rafting. Find a river, get a guide, and get going. I’ve yet to meet a teen who doesn’t love the thrills and spills of a raft trip. With the guide in charge, there’s no worry and plenty of fun.
Climbing. Climbing takes skills, knowledge, and a good partner. And it’s something you and your teen can do together, building your abilities over time. Start indoors at a climbing gym, get some instruction, and you’ll be out on a crag before you know it.
Snowshoeing. If you live somewhere snowy, you can rent snowshoes and hit the trail with a minimum of practice and training. You basically just strap ‘em on and go. Cross-country skis are a bit more challenging, but the learning curve is still much lower than downhill skiing.
Camping. Whether you go in a tent or a camper, or even stay in a cabin, camping provides a break in the normal routine. Life slows down. Depending upon where you are, you may have opportunities for hiking, boating, fishing, and more. Visit a National Park, a state park or find a remote campsite in a forest. Unplug and tune into what makes your family special.
What are your favorite activities for getting your teen up and out the door?
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This post was written by Kristin Lummis of The Brave Ski Mom exclusively for Bonbon Break Media, LLC