• Daniel Jenkins

8 Summer Ideas for You and Your Teen

Updated: Jun 4, 2019

For those of us in the northern hemisphere, summer is here! Teens are out of school. Pools are open. Ice cream stands are busy. Fun is in the air.

I hope you already have some go-to family traditions planned this summer. But, if you're looking for some good ideas to bond with your teen, here are eight:

1. Get Outside & Play Ball

I admit, I've never been one for sports. I couldn't tell you who won the "Big Game" this year. But taking time outside playing catch or a game of H-O-R-S-E can go a long way in building a relationship with your teen. My wife has great memories of playing catch with her dad. Several years ago, we bought a couple gloves and a baseball and began to play catch during the warm months. The great thing about it is that playing catch requires both hands and our full attention. So, the conversations we have while throwing a ball back & forth bring us closer together. The same can work for you. Neither you nor your teenager need to be the next Michael Gretzky or Wayne Jordan. You only have to show up and play.

2. Go Camping

We're all so surrounded by information that we can become overwhelmed and stressed out. Unplug and take a break from the information age. Plan a camping trip to a local park. Pitch a tent. Build a fire. Hang a hammock. Roast a marshmallow. Tell stories. Hike a trail. Leave the devices at home (or stowed away in a safe place). I would argue that you're not camping if you're on your phone or Nintendo Switch. Take time to relax with one another, breathe, and simply exist in nature. It'll do wonders for everyone.

3. Play Games

Not to put down games of the past like Monopoly and Uno, but board and card games have come a long way. Plan a game night with your family and some friends. A little friendly competition is healthy and a fun way to relieve stress. Some of our family favorites include: The Settlers of Catan, Ticket to Ride, Exploding Kittens, and Taboo. This is a great way to spend a couple minutes or a couple hours. Regardless of the game you choose to play, leave the devices turned off and out of sight. The best part of the game is the conversation that takes place.

4. Go to the Movies

Don't let the summer blockbusters just be for your teen and their friends! So many of the movies this summer are great for adults too. Toy Story 4, The Lion King, and Spider-Man: Far From Home all look great. Let's face it, movie prices these days are getting silly expensive. If your schedule allows it, catch a matinee on a Tuesday afternoon or something. Those tend to be much more affordable. Another option is to rent a recent movie from RedBox, iTunes, or some other service. Those are typically less than six dollars. You may even have money left over for microwave popcorn and boxes of theater candy! Because movies tend not to involve much conversation, be sure to take time to discuss the film afterwards. Ask your teen questions and listen to their review.

5. Serve Together

There are people all over your community who you can serve. Find a cause or an organization you and your teen are both passionate about. Make sure whatever it is you decide to do fits the gifts and talents you each have. Don't take your teen to build a house if they aren't good at driving nails. Serving together teaches humility, reframes their culture, and gives you a shared experience. You're bound to grow closer together as you serve the needs of others.

6. Explore

Earth is a big place. Explore it! You don't need to take a vacation around the world or drive across the country to find something new. Most of us haven't explored all there is to see and do in our own zip code. Back when I lived in Hawaii, someone introduced me to Geocaching. Think of it as a GPS-based treasure hunt. Go to Geocaching.com, create an account, and find a cache near you. It's a fun little activity for you and your teen. Discovering something together for the first time is a great way to bond.

7. Ask Them What They'd Like to Do

If all else fails, ask your teen. Seriously! Go to your teen and say "I would really like to spend some time with you this week. Is there anything you've wanted to do?" Showing your desire to spend time with your teen and interest in their desires will communicate your love for them. Be open to their suggestions. The last thing you want to do is ask them what they'd like to do with you and immediately shut them down.

8. Show Up & Shut Up

I know... it sounds abrasive. But, sometimes, the best thing a parent can do for their teen is to make yourself available and listen to them. You don't even need to leave your house. Sit down on your couch or at your dinner table and ask questions to get your teen talking. Once they start talking, be fully engaged. Turn off your phone. Make eye contact. Respond to their points. Ask more questions to get them to elaborate. Don't be afraid to ask "What else?". So, the next time you get a chance to spend time with your son or daughter, show up and shut up.

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