Connect With Your Teen: Share a Summer Adventure

All 14 years of Andrew Casteel’s life flashed through his mind as he glanced over his shoulder to see the wilderness below.

“Just sit down and step back,” the guide said. But everything inside Andrew screamed, “No way!”

The next thing he knew, Andrew had taken that step and was dangling from a rope 75 feet above the ground. Fear gave way to exhilaration as the young adventurer successfully rappelled down to terra firma with an infusion of confidence. His father, Kirk, loved every minute of it.

Moments like this were why Kirk brought Andrew to Colorado last summer, just as he had done previously with Andrew’s two older brothers. Together, Kirk and Andrew rock climbed, rafted and summited a 14,000-foot peak.

“I wanted to create a memory with my sons,” Kirk says. “I wanted to do something that was going to challenge us and make us work together and support each other. It definitely accomplished that.”

As Kirk and Andrew discovered, taking an adventure together can build lifelong memories. Parents can connect with their teens in new ways by creating shared experiences. That might mean engaging in a teen’s favourite activities – or trying something new together. Either way, the goals are the same: to break from normal routines, have fun and set the stage for meaningful communication. Whatever the format, consider it connecting today to strengthen your relational foundation for tomorrow.

If you’d like to connect with your teen through a shared adventure, your options are nearly limitless. An adventure doesn’t have to involve dangling from a cliff or scaling a mountain. Choose an activity that’s right for you and your teen. Think, What sounds exciting to my teen? You can start with a day or carve out a week. One-on-one makes it extra special, but you might prefer to join other parent-teen pairs. Teens are highly peer-centric, so you can leverage their fun by joining others. Plus you can build valuable community and provide like-minded mentors for your son or daughter. Creating easy, unforced opportunity for conversation helps teens to initiate questions about life, faith, and the way they relate to their friends or what they think of the opposite sex

Here are some ideas to consider as you plan your adventure.

Go Artsy

Is your teen into the arts? Summer is packed with music, film, theatre and dance festivals, both Christian and secular.

Discernment is required, of course, so begin a discussion with your teen about entertainment that aligns with your family’s values. As you enjoy an arts or music festival with you teen, ask questions and listen to your teen’s perspective on art, media, worldview and life. Remember to create quieter breaks for conversation in the midst of your entertainment-saturated environment.

Also consider signing up together for a photography, videography or painting workshop – or plan a getaway built around visiting museums or capturing and creating images together.

Go to the Game

Is your teen a sports nut? Use that passion to create meaningful memories together. Take in one or more pro games together, or travel to an iconic stadium. Also check for college or Olympic-related events.

But don’t just sit in the stands. Play a classic golf course together, or help your young athlete attend a clinic hosted by pros. And don’t be afraid to try a new game together. Disc golf anyone?

Go Wild

An outdoor adventure reminds us of our powerful Creator. Nature helps us unplug. And it can be the ultimate playground for teens whose brains are wired for fun and adventure.

“Hiking up to a lake and catching a first trout, rafting a river or summiting a mountain peak together creates a natural environment for sharing life together and helping to facilitate deeper, less forced conversations,” says Chuck Cichowitz, president of Noah’s Ark Whitewater Rafting Company and Adventure Program. “It creates a reservoir of memory.”

A professional outfitter can handle logistics and provide high-adrenaline activities. But a short camping or cabin-based weekend can be just as fun. While you’re there, find a nearby rafting, zip lining, horseback riding or wakeboarding outfit. And plan some hiking, beachcombing or campfire gazing for one-on-one moments that can spark dialogue.

Go With a Memory

If you’re still having trouble coming up with ideas, look back at your family traditions. What special places or activities hold sway in your teen’s heart? Was it a trip to a certain beach, lake, or amusement park? Was it a family camping trip or reunion? You can never recreate those experiences, but you can build on positive memories to create a new connecting point with your teen.

Go Local

Though there’s plenty of room to dream big in the holidays, you can always start small, right in your own backyard. Kirk calls his adventures “milestones that fit into the bigger picture.” His family has since taken up kayaking together in the intercoastal waterways near their home in Florida. It’s all part of the same picture: crafting fun, memorable experiences together that lead to connection and deeper relationship.

Jeremy V. Jones is an award-winning writer and former editor of Breakaway magazine. His latest book is the action-packed devotional for tween boys Triple Dog Dare.

Copyright © 2012 by Jeremy V. Jones. Used by permission.