Do you look back on the days when you took your toddlers and young children on adventures as your favorite part of parenting? Did you have picnics at the local park? Wander through the aquarium? Giggle at animals at the zoo? See the shows at the Renaissance festival?
I remember those adventures and look at our scrapbooks of them fondly. But now, we have four teenagers and one of my 2018 goals is to go on adventures with them again. It seems like we, as parents, forget to continue making memories with our teenagers that don’t revolve around carpooling to different events and waiting for them to return home from their own social activities.
Studies show that teens not only want to spend time with their family but that it is beneficial to their well-being.
A study done at Penn State and published in The Journal of Child Development states, “Our research shows that, well into the adolescent years, teens continue to spend time with their parents and that this shared time, especially shared time with fathers, has important implications for adolescents’ psychological and social adjustment.”http://news.psu.edu/story/147370/2012/08/21/research/time-parents-important-teens-well-being
So my family decided to plan one adventure per month for the year. We started by looking at all of the local events on Facebook. We kept our calendar handy and researched more closely the top choices.
We decided on a local Kite Festival that was being held on a beach near St. Petersburg, Florida since it was only about an hours drive for us. The perk of the kids being older is that they can entertain themselves for over an hour and they don’t need to stop for potty breaks.
Remember to have everyone bring their phone chargers, any cash they may want to spend on souvenirs (yes, some of them have jobs!) and appropriate weather clothing. It was very cold for a January day in Florida. I grabbed my camera and we headed out.
At first, the teens were not sure they were going to be interested in a Kite Festival. But as soon as we parked and got a restroom break, they were ready to go. The beach was packed with families enjoying the huge kites, the unusual kites and the kite shows. They were having multiple people do “ballet” to music with their kites. It was interesting and they took lots of videos and photos for their social media accounts
It was just past lunch so we found a nice place right on the beach where we could watch the activity but enjoy a relaxing lunch. The kids talked and watched all the activity. Their observations are very different then they would have been a few years ago. Now, they notice the different people, the families and even the little kids watching the show and checking out the kites.
Taking older kids out was so much easier than when they were young in so many ways; no need to order food for them, no walking them to the bathrooms, if they need something they ask for it themselves and they can have conversations amongst themselves so my husband and I were able to spend a few minutes talking uninterrupted as well.
Next, we went to the kid’s area where some volunteers were helping the kids make homemade kites from kits. They loved it and were quick to get them up in the air. While the little kids around them spent lots of time coloring theirs with markers, they just wanted to see them fly.
I got the best photos of them giggling and taking photos with each other. Every photo has a genuine smile and what more could any parent want than that?
Next, we drove down the road to a tiny candy and ice cream shop. It was barely big enough for us to stand inside. They ordered giant desserts and ate them while relaxing on the way home. Just like when they were all little, they fell asleep ion the ride home.
It was a great bonding experience and family time before the oldest heads of to college in a few months. By planning these adventures ahead of time, it will help us follow through on actually going.
The Child Development Institute’s article on the Importance of Family Time on Kids Mental Health and Adjustment to Life reminds parents that, “family time should be a fun and enjoyable way to raise healthy and happy children that love and feel loved. Then the child will know that they “matter” and this will be reflected in their life choices.”https://childdevelopmentinfo.com/psychology/importance-of-family-time-on-kids-mental-health-and-adjustment-to-life/
Here are some helpful tips when planning family adventures with teens to make everything run smoothly (and thankfully, no diaper bags to pack).
Make sure they are well rested. No seriously, grumpy teens are as bad as grumpy toddlers.
So they are excited about the activity, look it up beforehand and talk about what you will be hoping to do
Give them a goal. Ours was to photograph the kites and have a yummy dessert somewhere. The dessert gets them every time.
Pack snacks if the ride is long because hungry teens are grumpy teens.
If one of your family members cannot attend due to work or other responsibilities, let them know they will be missed and you look forward to them joining you next time.
Allow phone time at intervals throughout the day so they don’t feel disconnected from their peeps. But roll model when it’s appropriate to put the phone away, such as at meal times and when someone is talking to them.
Discuss expectations for behavior and rules for how far they can wander from adults before you head out.
Don’t forget to take Selfies and allow them to post pictures on social media. When their friends comment on how much fun they looked like they were having, the next outing will much easier to get them interested in.
Vary the activities so everyone has something they are interested in doing
10- Play has no age limits. Have fun being silly and make sure they know they can build kites (or whatever activity) with the little kids because fun has no age limit.