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Teen-Friendly Family Outings

Promote Family Bonding Time With Your Kids

It was a normal weekend at my house. As soon as I announced to my teenage daughter that we were going to brunch at the home of a family friend, my daughter asked, "Will there be anyone my age there?" As the "o" in the word "no" was leaving my lips, she asked, "Can I bring a friend?"

Bring a friend? She sees her friends all day at school and has basketball practice with her teammates weekly. At dinner time I either set an extra place setting because one of her friends will be dining with us, or I set one less place setting because she is dining with a friend elsewhere. I am beginning to get the impression that I am not the apple of my daughter's eye anymore. I am being replaced by a crop of teenagers who share her taste in music, clothes and other things that make me cringe. My daughter doesn't hang around with the wrong crowd; I just wish the crowd included her family more often.

Quality family time is important for children of all ages. It is especially important during the teenage years when young people feel pressure from their peers to become so many things. Teenagers need to be reminded that they are loved and are an important part of the family. Family bonding time promotes feelings of contentment and security. It develops trust.

Finding Common Ground

My teen is the oldest of my four children. I have found that there are several things we can do together that we both enjoy. My "movies I must see" list often includes a movie that is also on my teen's list. Either she and I see the movie together while my husband stays home with the younger children, or better yet, I hire a babysitter and my husband and I both take her to see a movie.

We both enjoy shopping and going to the beach. She will often ask if a friend can come along. Although I usually say "yes," once in a while I have to say, "No, let's have a family day today." At times, I would rather see her lift her little brother up in the waves at the beach than sit behind the rest of the family discussing boys with a friend. The beach is fun, even if there isn't anyone else between the ages of 13 and 19 along for the day. I know that friends are important, but sometimes the family needs the undivided attention of all of us.

An idea in the works: we are starting to re-decorate our home, and I know that my teen wouldn't mind strolling through furniture stores seeking out decorating ideas. Checking out the insides of model homes in the area is another way to gain decorating savvy together as a family, hopefully without placing a bid on a new, beautiful house.

Fun for the Whole Family

Cindy from Murfreesboro, Tennessee and her teens enjoy family events sponsored by their church. They also try to take in a few musical performances as a family. Teen-friendly family outings are the norm in Cindy's family.

Doretta Thompson from Ontario, Canada is the mother of one teenager and another child who is counting the days to the teenage years (and they are quickly approaching).

Doretta's family has a special New Year's Eve ritual. "In the afternoon, we go to the Pantomime which is a British tradition that has been revived in Toronto," Doretta says. "Next, we go for an early dinner to the same restaurant every year, then we go home early and watch all the political satire specials on television and welcome in the New Year with champagne and sparkling grape juice."

Doretta shares other ideas for teen-friendly family outings that work well for her family:

  • Apple-picking at a heritage orchard in the fall.
  • Playing squash at the health club (dad can still beat everyone).
  • Cheering for each other in their respective sporting events.
  • An annual picnic held by a parent's employer.
  • Visiting a friend's farm.
  • Christmas shopping together for family members. Although shopping isn't popular with three of the four family members, everyone seems to enjoy shopping together for gifts.

Sharon from California is the mother of a 13-year-old, 19-year-old and 21-year-old. She has BTDT (been there done that) and is still doing it -- entertaining teenagers, that is.

Sharon polled her family and determined that the most popular family outings that teenagers enjoy are going out to eat, spending the day at any amusement park or sporting event, camping, skiing, fishing, "malling" (shopping) and bowling on a weeknight when friends are not likely to be there.

"They like to rent movies and buy junk food to eat while watching them with the family, but this cannot be done on a Friday or Saturday night as they must make believe they have plans with friends, or they do have plans", says Sharon.

The Teen-Parent Relationship

What should parents do if their teen is unresponsive to the idea of an upcoming family outing or event?

"This is a question that gets directly to the teen-parent relationship," says Dr. Barry Ginsberg, director of The Center of Relationship Enhancement in Doylestown, Penn. "It is important to start with trying to understand what is happening at this time in the lives of parents and child." Adolescence is a period when children are developing a separate self and desiring increased independence from their parents' authority. During this period, it is important for the parents to balance the use of their authority with cooperation from their adolescents.

"Every decision should take the adolescent's position into consideration while not giving up the parents' authority," Ginsberg says. "Adolescents want their parents to maintain authority because it gives them security, while at the same time they want respect for their points of view."

In their quest for independent selves, teenagers may reject or be resistant to what they think their parents want them to do. Family events might be fun to them, but may make them feel as though they're being held back from their independence.

"Often these events are in fact boring to the adolescent and mostly for the benefit of the adults. Parents may want their teenagers to go for the parents' own sake, often wanting to hold onto them and not recognizing it," Ginsberg says.

Ginsberg recommends a way to approach this potential conflict. Negotiate as much as possible so that the teen feels that his needs are taken into consideration. When it is really important to the parent for the teenager to attend a family event, the parent can negotiate a compromise such as bringing a friend or doing something at the event that is strictly for the adolescent.

The above approach may not always help and a teen may still argue about a request to accompany the family. Ginsberg says parents should "maintain a respectful attitude toward the adolescent as much as possible and be willing to accept the adolescent not going when it may not be that important to the parent."

This Week's Agenda

I will not force my teenager to attend a birthday party at a kiddie playground with me and her younger siblings this week. That particular day will be stress-free for us both. As a parent, I will consider my teen's wishes and save the "yes, you have to go" speech for the times when it's absolutely necessary. Maybe she will be interested in a family hike down to the creek on Saturday.

So, what do you have planned with your teenager this week? If there is nothing on the calendar, ask you teen what she would like to do. The answer might surprise you.

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