Getting Teens on The Trail This Spring

I’m an (ahem) elder Millennial so I played outside with little to no supervision everyday for the whole summer break and on most days after school. That is a bygone practice. We’ve allowed the latter part of my generation and the subsequent one to blitz through childhood preoccupied with screens. Experts have begun to notice the detrimental effects on physical and mental health. 

I love seeing the work of others who are helping to turn the ship around for the future. Richar Louv wrote Last Child in the Woods and Vitamin N to impress upon parents that kids need interaction with nature no matter where they live. I follow 1000 Hours Outside on Instagram and love seeing families accomplish that goal.

This post contains affiliate links. We earn a commission on purchases made through our links at no extra cost to you. See our disclaimer here.

Teens can be a tough crowd though. They might think that your ideas are the greatest thing since the Like button. Or they might roll their eyes so hard you thought you heard a scraping sound. Getting them out from behind a screen is the goal we can all achieve with a few well played strategies. I’m not claiming to be an expert. We’re not in the teen parenting years yet, but I think I’ve begun to hear an eye-roll now and then.

For Outdoorsy Teens

When you’re older kids are into nature hikes, camping, and other outdoor pursuits it’s much easier to get them outside. The challenge may lie in getting them to still embrace outdoor time as a family activity. It’s wonderful if they want to go on their own adventures, but they shouldn’t leave the family in their dust every time . 

Let them choose the destination. Even with pre-teens, they like to take part in the planning process because it helps them own the outcome. Allow your teen to give input about where to hike and sites to see. You can guide them in considering what works for the whole family. They gain personal investment in the outing and practice planning a family event. 

Let them teach what they know. You can support your teen’s emerging sense of maturity by having them teach younger siblings, cousins, and friends. Organize a guided nature walk for a few families where your teen leads the way. They can teach about plants, the history of the trail, or any area of expertise they have. 

For Non-Outdoorsy Teens

Don’t ban screens. This goes against advice I’ve read elsewhere, but hear me out. I’m not saying there are no guardrails on phone usage. You can’t hike and scroll at the same time, anyway. Your teen’s phone can be a tool to enjoy their time outside. A few things to do are photo scavenger hunts, take photos at certain intervals, take nature photos to enter in a fair or contest, or do silly poses and faces along the trail. 

Bring friends. The American teenager is a social animal. Allowing a friend or two of their choice makes a family trip more fun. You may have to set some additional guidelines about not ignoring siblings, but an open and honest conversation before the hike can go a long way. Usually, teens just want their preferences to be acknowledged even if they can’t be fulfilled all the time. 

Link it to something else. We’ve used trail time to condition for soccer season. Any sporty teen can do the same. Whether you go running or for an aggressive hike, it helps them get ready for any sport season.

Guiding teens is tough but not impossible. Open conversations and some reasonable compromises help keep your whole family enjoying outdoor time together.

Thanks for taking the time to read our post. To make following this blog easier, sign up to receive TRAIL FAMILY blog posts in your email (be sure to mark emails from “not junk”) You can follow us on Instagram @trailfamilylife. Check out our videos on our YouTube channel TrailFamilyLife. Like us on Facebook at TrailFamily.

Categories Family activities, Rail Trail, Spring, SummerTags , , ,

Leave a Reply

Social Share Buttons and Icons powered by Ultimatelysocial
%d bloggers like this:
search previous next tag category expand menu location phone mail time cart zoom edit close