As they transition from childhood to adulthood, teens rightly begin developing their own preferences and identify. They have definite opinions about what they want to do when and with whom, and these opinions don’t always match up with those of their parents. This makes parenting teens especially tricky.
Tips for Motivating Teens to Get Outdoors
While my focus today is on getting teens from the couch to the chairlift, these tips can be adapted to motivate kids of all ages, for any outdoor activity.
It’s much too easy for frustrated parents to resort to blame, nag and threaten (i.e. “I don’t care about your plans, we are skiing this weekend as a family!” or “You’re going skiing or I’m taking away your phone!”). But your message will be better received when offered calmly as an open invitation.
“I’m going skiing this weekend. Do you want to come?”
Teens are very adept at sensing hypocrisy. If you’re frustrated by how much time your teens spends indoors, using technology, hanging out with friends or lying on the couch, examine your own behavior before pointing any fingers.
Set a positive tone for healthy active winter fun.
Cede Some Control
Sweeten your proposal by giving your teen some control. Teens crave control over their lives and they want to make their own decisions. Thus, they are more likely to join you for a day of skiing if they can choose the day or time.
This also means taking the time to understand what motivates your teen. If he or she is more interested in hiking or mountain biking, for example, than skiing, don’t take it personally. Instead, be thankful that she is getting outdoors or that he is getting exercise, even if it doesn’t involve you.
Better yet, join in and participate in your child’s current passion. Let your teens know that you value their company and spending time outdoors with them, no matter what the activity.
Here is a recent video from Alyssa Erickson from The Kid Project and me. It has three tips for motivating teens and getting them outdoors.
The Importance of Friends
Teens are social and while they may not always want to ski with mom and dad, they may be willing to get outdoors with their friends. Help make this happen by driving a group of kids to the mountain, picking them up at the end of they day and being on hand to offer assistance.
Cherish the opportunity to help your child be social and enjoy time with friends.
Also, if you are driving, bring your skis and be ready to spend some time skiing with your teens and friends. They just might invite you.
Commit to Time Together
If you put it on the calendar, it’s more likely to happen. Plan a special ski day with your teen or teenagers. Skip school. Skip work. Choose a new ski area. Study the trail map together before you go and pick the runs you want to explore. Take a lesson together or try something new like snowboarding or ski touring.
Make this special day an adventure to remember. Commit to the date and don’t let anything get in your way.
And, if for some reason, your teen isn’t interested in a special day with you right now (maybe they can’t skip school because of a heavy class load), keep asking.
At some point, the stars will align and the fun will happen.
Get in the Backseat
While skiing in the “backseat” is bad for your quads and your form, taking a backseat role to your teen can be really helpful.
Ask your teen to plan a ski day, weekend or a week. Set the necessary parameters (for example, how much you’re willing to spend or how far you’ll drive) and turn your teen loose. Then, when you ski together, wholeheartedly join in all that your child has planned.
Not only will your teen learn some logistical skills, but your teen will also learn that you trust and value her or his opinions and preferences. Plus, you’ll get some insight into your child’s burgeoning identity.
Adults and teens look at life differently. Adults, with our often hectic, too-full lives, get caught up in the “doing” and miss out on the “being.”
When spending time with your teenager and your family, focus on the “being.”
Take advantage of chairlift time. Let your teen steer the conversation while you listen. Use this captive time, while you’re prepping for your next run, to build lasting bridges in your relationship.
Enjoy the unique person you’re with, the moment you’re in, the bounty of the snow, and the companionship that comes of enjoying a beloved sport together.
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