Fun things to do with your teen

The most valuable thing you can give adolescents can’t be bought.
Fun things to do with your teen

Spending time with your teenager may be the last thing either of you feels like doing, especially if they’re going through that sullen and stroppy stage. But it’s worth making the effort, say US researchers. A seven-year study of 200 families found that teens who spend more time with their parents tend to have better social skills and higher self-esteem.

Although time spent with parents steadily declines from early adolescence, the researchers found that many teens (at least up until the age of 15) continue to have a lot of one-on-one time with a parent – doing things like homework, watching TV or going out together. That time, say the researchers, can be crucial to teenagers’ wellbeing and mental development.

Although you may not be spending as much time with them as you did when they were younger, the time that many parents do have with their teens is often more intense and therefore very beneficial. The researchers observed that increased self-esteem and social skills were particularly strong for teenagers who hung out more with their fathers, possibly because they were more likely to be doing fun leisure activities. But the lead researcher says it could also be because the mother’s role in a child’s life is so ingrained that it can easily go unnoticed and unacknowledged.

Interestingly, the study found that parents with at least two children tended to spend more time with their second child as they got older and had less conflict with them, suggesting they had learned from their experience with the first child. They found that older children spent an average of eight hours of social time with their mother and seven with their father when they were teenagers, while younger children spend eight and a half hours with mum and seven and a half with dad.

Fun things to do with your teen

  • Play cards or board games

  • Pack a picnic and go somewhere scenic for lunch

  • Go to a video arcade with them and play their favourite games

  • Wash the car together and have a water fight

  • Get out your old photos or home movies and let them have a good laugh at you

  • Go on a road trip

  • Play interactive video games with them

  • Go biking

  • Take on a project together – maybe researching your family tree or putting together a scrapbook or digital photo album

  • Go out for a special treat like an ice-cream sundae

  • Go bowling

  • Attend a sports game. It doesn’t have to be a top-class test match: cheering on a local team can be good fun too

  • Help them redecorate their room

  • Train together for a sporting event such as a 10km walk

  • Find a DVD you’ll all enjoy and watch it together

  • Rope in the rest of the family to play charades

  • Go to an advanced adventure playground: climb walls and swing off ropes with them

  • Go to an art gallery or museum they’d enjoy

  • Cook or bake together – make it something special, like a dessert you wouldn’t normally have

  • Take a class together – maybe try art or yoga

  • Make a home movie

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