While parents of toddlers long for the day that their kids will “just walk!” beside them, making hiking easier, parents of teenagers have their own challenges to face. As kids grow older and more independent, their desire to make their own fun — outside of the family circle– can lead to diminished returns on family hike outings. What can we do to help our teenagers maintain their enthusiasm for the outdoors and hiking? Here are my ideas:
- Let them choose the trail. Does your teen have a special interest, such as waterfalls, mountain or desert hiking? Perhaps he can look at hiking books from the library and find a place he would love to visit. Let him be in charge of the choice and his enthusiasm will build.
- Leave the younger ones at home (sometimes). If your family, like ours, has older and younger children, try a hiking trip without the youngest members of the household. It will allow you to fly along the trail or mosey without whines of boredom, and will set a much different pace than a “whole family” trip. It might also allow for much longer distances to be covered, or steeper trails to be experienced.
- Bring the Ipod. I know, I know. For the full nature experience, you need the sound (or silence) of nature around you. Teenagers in our society, however, are accustomed to a constant barrage of sound and stimuli. If bringing the Ipod makes hiking more enjoyable for your teen, try to strike a compromise. We allow in-ear music on the return trip. On many of our hikes, this means we will already have spent 3 or 4 hours listening to nature or talking to each other, and are ready for some alone time. For Brett, this means music, and the compromise makes our hiking trips more enjoyable — for all of us.
- Don’t hike every weekend. With school and other responsibilities growing, kids view weekends as their time to relax and be with friends. If you can’t convince their friends to come along with you on hiking trips, (we haven’t been successful in this area) your teenagers will want some time at home to arrange their own kind of recreation. Make sure they have that time. If your schedule allows the flexibility, schedule some family hikes during the week when other kids are in school. Then your kids will be available on the weekends for “normal” teenage fun.
- Make it a big deal. Let your kids know that you think their hiking is a big achievement, something to be valued. Sometimes we make a big deal about our little ones doing long hikes, but how many teenagers get off the couch to do a 10 mile hike? We can let our kids know that what they are doing is special.
Most importantly of all:
Don’t Give Up!
Teenagers are entitled to their down days. It happens to all of us. Hopefully, following this advice will give you more great hiking days, and put more smiles in your (trail) miles.
Do you have any great tips on keeping enthusiasm high for hiking? Please leave me a comment below.