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7 Ways to Bond Outdoors With Your Teen

Posted by Sue Scheff on June 15, 2017  /   Posted in Summer Camps, Teen Help

The outdoors is the perfect place to spend time with your teen because it’s a world free from distraction. Back home it’s TV, iPhone, iPad and anything digital to occupy a teenager’s mind, but step outside and everything changes. If you’re looking for ways to spend quality time with your son or daughter outside of the house, here are some great ways to bond with your teen.

Car Camping

This is the perfect introduction to the outdoors. Car camping eases into the wilderness while keeping some of the comforts of home. Parks and forests have designated campgrounds with picnic tables, fire pits and bathroom facilities to accommodate campers of any experience. Simply drive up to your spot, pitch a tent and enjoy a warm fire under the stars.

Hiking & Backpacking

Ready to leave behind the graded campsites for more secluded pastures? Backpacking is a great way to get away from the crowds and explore parts of the wilderness not accessible by any vehicle. The hobby requires lighter, more technical gear, but nothing that is hard to get or will break the bank:

  • Large backpack
  • Small tent
  • Sleeping bag
  • Sleeping pad
  • Cook system
  • Water filtration/purification
  • Food

There’s a little more to it, as many backpacking checklists will point out, but these are the bare essentials; strap them on your back and hit the trail. This is a great opportunity to learn skills like using a map and compass and is incredible exercise.

Boating & Fishing

Fishing on the boat is the perfect way to do something while doing nothing. The sound of the water and the crickets chirping around it is one of the most serene experiences on the planet. If you think your teen might get bored with sitting around, waiting for a fish to bite, put a little more fun into the preparation. Shop around together for a new rod and reel, go through and refresh the tackle box and prepare a delicious lunch to take on the boat. Nothing builds up a teenager’s appetite like doing nothing! And when that first fish finally bites, it’ll all be worth it.

Climbing & Bouldering

Pro climber Alex Honnold recently scaled the face of Yosemite’s El Capital without a rope. It’s easy to look at this incredible feat and be intimidated by climbing, but it’s actually easy to get started. First, the teen years are a great time to start and rock climbing gyms across the country accommodate people of all skill levels.

So if your teen can scale the expert wall by their pinkies but you’re barely gripping wood blocks, you can both still practice at the same gym. And when it’s time to finally take the hobby outdoors, it will be easy to find a spot you both can enjoy.

Skiing & Snowboarding

The outdoors doesn’t close down at the end of summer. In fact, it gets even better. If you live anywhere near a decent ski resort (look for man-made slopes too), then strap on some skis or a board. Maybe this is a sport your teen already does with friends or maybe you’re both learning it together. Either way, shredding through fresh powder is its own fun and enjoying it together is just icing on the cake.

Wilderness Classes

Going back to backpacking, some people can be intimidated by the idea of venturing out into the wilderness with nothing but the gear on their back. What better way to trek with confidence than a wilderness class to learn the basics? The National and State Parks Service, local outdoors retailers and various outdoors non-profit groups all have classes that are either free or a low cost. They’ll cover anything, whether for beginners who’ve never camped or for experts learning new skills.


Okay, “volunteer” might not be a word that resonates with teenagers, but volunteering can actually be real fun when done in the outdoors. Anyone can volunteer for trail cleanup in state and national parks, which serves as a great way to see our public lands for free. And, in some cases, volunteers have access to areas of parks and forests most people wouldn’t ordinarily go to, so there is an essence of exclusivity.

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Life Skills Your Teen Can Use Now and Later In Life

Posted by Sue Scheff on March 21, 2016  /   Posted in Parenting Teens

You teen is at an important age, where his or her interests and hobbies will have a large influence on their identity. Make sure your teen is engaged in activities that are beneficial in the short and long term. There are skills they can develop that can help them cope with the stress of adolescence, discover what they love, keep them busy and also help prepare them for the professional world. Here are four life skills for teens that could help them immediately and prepare them for a job:

ParentTeenCookingCooking Skills

Fine-tuned cooking skills will equip your teen to make meals for themselves and open up opportunities towards a solid career in the culinary world. If you, or a family member, has enhanced knowledge about knife skills, gastronomy or advanced cooking techniques, share them with your teen. Arrange that they work with an experienced cook, within your family, twice a week. They can be given more responsibility, once they’ve established their basic skills. For example, after about three weeks, your teen can design a menu that combines complementary dishes and tests their culinary skill set. You can sign your teen up for a cooking class offered within your community, for more in-depth instruction. You can also ask a local restaurant if they have any internship opportunities within their kitchens. An internship is a wonderful opportunity for your teen to learn how a high-functioning restaurant kitchen operates, first hand.

Recreational Sports

Your teen should have hobbies that keep them occupied and out of trouble. Recreational sports are an excellent hobby that allow the release of stress and encourage focus within the practice of a skill. Single-person recreational sports provide your teen with personal goals and incentives– they can only rely on themselves and their own growth in skills for the achievement of their athletic goal. Swimming, running, cycling and kayaking are recreational sports that your teen can practice independently. They can set short term and long-term goals for themselves, which is a valuable skill one must utilize in many facets of their professional life. There is also the sport of target practice, with the use of airsoft guns, compound bows or crossbows. This sport requires immense practice and focus– two traits that can be found in highly successful people and are desired by employers in every field.

Writing Journal

Communication is key in every area of our lives. Help your teen develop their communication skills, with the promotion of journal writing. You can provide them with a journal and encourage a regular practice of writing with monetary incentive. If their allowance is dependent on how many pages they write, they will cooperate with less protest. A journal is a therapeutic outlet for your teen, where they can write down their daily encounters and the thoughts they have on their budding identities. Let your teen know that their writing journal is private and you will only check the page numbers, with their supervision. Writing is a method of critical thinking, which is important in many jobs– your teen should get a head start on sharpening this skill. A journal also helps refine your teens’ communication skills. Communication is another key career trait that is pivotal in job interviews, professional interactions and project presentations.

Computer Skills

If you’re the parent of a self-proclaimed computer geek, seek out opportunities that will help them develop digital skills. If your teen is interested in website design, enroll them in a graphic design course. Many community colleges have design departments, some of which may offer part-time, night courses. Graphic design will let your teen engage with their computer, exercise their creativity and help prepare them for an eventual career in that realm. If your teen loves video games, help them find a class or a group that will teach them how they can create their own video game. TechRocket has online tech courses that teach kids Python, iOS, Java, Minecraft, 3D printing and more. Coding and digital design activities are a creative outlet for your teen and can equip him or her with the knowledge and skills that are highly sought after by the tech industry.

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Family Meal Time Can Reduce Risky Teen Behavior

Posted by Sue Scheff on July 13, 2015  /   Posted in Parenting Teens, Struggling Teen Help, Teen Help

Studies have proven that family meal time can reduce your teen from making bad choices.  This is also the opportunity to discuss things like their digital lives as well as offline life.  Let’s keep in mind, the consequences of cyberbullying (whether they are a victim of it – or they are someone that sent or received a sext) can be devastating.  Your teen’s need to be constantly educated on the facts of digital citizenship today.

In the hustle and bustle of everyday life, it’s often easier and more convenient for today’s families to grab an instant meal or a bag from a drive-through on the way to their respective activities than to sit down together for a family meal.

family-having-dinner-at-home-teensStill, there are so many reasons why families should be carving out time to spend together over a shared meal that the topic has been the subject of investigative news reports and scientific studies alike. Among those reasons are these ten, which may help to change your perspective on the family table.

  • Reducing Obesity Rates – When everyone is sitting around the same table and the adults of the family are supervising food preparation, it’s easier to eliminate unhealthy foods filled with empty calories from kids’ diets. As a result, kids whose families share meals on a regular basis tend to have lower rates of childhood obesity.
  • Encouraging Healthy Eating Habits – It’s easier to encourage healthy eating when kids aren’t faced with the temptation of a deep-fried chicken nugget while they’re being urged to eat a salad. Eating meals together means that everyone eats the same thing, which can also help turn picky kids into more adventurous eaters.
  • Allowing Parents to Be Parents – Between the hours spent at school, attending various club meetings and practice for sports or arts, it’s easy to feel like other people are actively parenting your children, while you’re in charge of looking after them when they’re sleeping. Spending time around the family dinner table puts you back in the “Parent” seat, allowing you to once again resume an active role in your children’s lives.
  • Reduced Likelihood of Substance Experimentation by Kids – Kids that live in a household where family dinners are shared on a regular basis are less likely to smoke cigarettes, experiment with drugs or drink alcohol than their peers who don’t.
  • Better Academic Performance – When you’re able to actively talk with your children about their day at school, discuss areas in which they’re struggling and provide a support system, kids are more likely to enjoy increased academic performance than if you were less involved.
  • Getting the Whole Family Involved – Working together as a family to put dinner on the table not only makes the process a quicker and less labor-intensive one, but also gives kids a sense of ownership over part of the meal and an area of responsibility to build character. Kids need to be responsible for something in order to avoid feelings of entitlement and a general lack of know-how; cooking a meal that you’ll later eat together is a great way to give them that sense of responsibility.
  • Fostering Stronger Relationships – It’s difficult to build strong relationships when each member of the family is always attending other events and no one spends any time together. Getting to know your kids again, and allowing them to get to know one another, may be as simple as instituting a policy of sharing family dinners on a regular basis.
  • More Time-Efficient – One of the most commonly cited reasons for parents not to cook is an assertion that they do not have the time. What most don’t stop to consider is that the amount of time spent driving to pick something up, trying to arrange a take-out order or waiting for a table in a crowded, loud restaurant is actually more than enough to prepare and share a high-quality meal at home.
  • Saving Money on Meals – When every meal you eat comes from a take-out menu or a drive-through window, you may not realize how much money your family is throwing away in comparison to simply cooking and sharing meals at home. All other benefits aside, simple economic efficiency is a compelling reason to establish a family dinner ritual.
  • Teaching Kids About Sustainable Eating – As the focus on green living and eco-friendly habits grows stronger, it’s important that parents teach their children how to live and eat sustainably. What better time to share this information than over the dinner table? Family dinner is an ideal opportunity for the discussion of sustainable agriculture, even if it’s just to explain where vegetables come from to smaller children.

What will you discuss?  

Besides the obvious of asking your teen how their day was, it is important to find out how their cyber-life is going.

Common Sense Media and Family Dinner Project put together a great list of conversation starters.


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