Activities of all kinds are beneficial for teens. Regardless if teens are playing sports, creating art, or writing, activities provide a channel for them to exercise, learn, and focus their energy. Activities also help teens with their mental health, physical health, and relationship building.
Unfortunately, it can sometimes be challenging to get teens actively engage in activities. Below are a few suggestions and ideas on how to help get your teen active and experiencing new things, developing new skills, and maybe even finding a new passion.
Beginning with the most obvious, sports are an excellent way to keep your teen busy. Sports can be beneficial in many ways. They help teens learn to be team players, build a sense of responsibility for them, help them with time management, and keep them healthy and fit.
“We know that physical activity is related to reduced risk and increased benefits for both physical health and mental health. The list of benefits includes overall increased energy, lower risks for cardiovascular disease, decreased risk for type 2 diabetes, increased bone density, improved cholesterol levels, improved blood flow, improved sleep, lowered risk of anxiety and depression, decreased stress, and improved self-esteem overall,” explained Greg Lubimiv, executive director, the Phoenix Centre for Children and Families.
He added, “Physical activity and healthy nutrition are the two most important ingredients to improved health, both short term and long term.”
Lubimiv suggests that teens should get at least an hour of physical activity each day, though he acknowledges just how hard it can be to motivate teens.
“Challenge your teen to meet the one-hour goal, but it works a lot better if you also participate in the challenge,” commented Lubimiv. “See if they are open to getting some of their friends to take the challenge. Peer support/involvement can work wonders for motivation.”
If your teen is disengaging from a sport they have participated in for years, encourage them to try a different sport. Remember that keeping a teenager busy with activities means there is less time for them to get into trouble. It doesn’t have to be organized sports like baseball or hockey, and it doesn’t have to be only one sport.
Cycling, yoga, martial arts, running, or climbing are all great choices. Base your decision on what your teen is interested in. They will be far more engaged in an activity if they want to do it than if you are forcing them to do it. Check out not only what is available at their school, but also at your local community centre. And don’t forget about your local PSP. They often have many programs available for your teen to participate in.
If your teen is already interested in an activity, you will likely be more successful, especially when competing with a screen.
“If screen time is a barrier, you might consider having this be part of the discussion. It is not that screen time is all bad, but too much of anything can be a problem and interfere with health, mental health as well as relationships,” noted Lubimiv.
Lubimiv does raise a red flag when it comes to your teen being physically active.
“If your teen has very little physical activity and is having difficulty sleeping, gets tired easily, is grumpy or on edge, has health issues emerging, or is showing increased anxiety/depression symptoms, it may be helpful to reach out to a doctor or a mental health agency which specialized in working with teens.”
There are some fantastic activities your teen can become involved in both at school and in the community. Schools run a variety of clubs, including everything from drama clubs (focusing on both acting and set design) to chess clubs, all of which are not only fun but introduce your teen to new experiences.
“One of the problems in our culture today is we’re either in the past or in the future. Things like anger, guilt, shame are all the past; and things like anxiety, worry, fear are all the future. But if we can pay attention to something that draws our focus, then the emotional centre of the brain has a rest,” said Lubimiv. “That’s the basis of mindfulness: it is getting us to focus on the here and now.
Local community centres can offer everything from art classes to archery and can be an excellent way for your teen to explore some of their interests. PSP and your local MFRC can also offer some great programs for your teen outside of sports and exercise classes. While different bases offer different activities, the activities may include anything from cooking classes, climbing and bouldering instruction, ice fishing, and more. It is well worth reaching out and finding out what’s available near you.
If your teen is transfixed with their screens, then maybe go with it. There are lots of productive ways to engage with screens. Many communities have some type of community makerspace available, and there are a growing number of organizations who offer coding classes. Many public libraries are starting to provide this type of programming, and they can be an excellent resource for finding other organizations who do the same.
Duke of Edinburgh
The Duke of Edinburgh Award is a fantastic way to keep teens active, and it can be based on whatever interests your teen the most. It is an internationally recognized award that is geared to helping young people develop personal growth and discovery, self-reliance, perseverance, self-responsibility, and service to their community. It is a non-competitive program that provides personal challenge and development that is adapted to the young person’s particular interest.
The program is tailored to young people aged 14-24. The program engages over 42,000 young people annually and is broken down into three levels: bronze, silver, and gold. There are four sections of activities young people can focus on: service, skills development, physical recreation, and adventurous journey.
This is an exceptional program that helps young people develop their passions, build their confidence, and help give them the skills they need to thrive. Many high schools are now even giving course credit for completion of the program.
Volunteering is a fabulous way to help your teen be active and give back to their community. Volunteering also helps them learn about different career fields, which can be very helpful when they are planning for their future. It can also guide as to what type of post-secondary education they want once they graduate from high school.
There are numerous organizations where teens can volunteer from the local library to the hospital to the SPCA and more. Find out what your teen is interested in trying and go from there. Building habits of giving time to their community now will stay with your teens through their lives.
Whether your teen is involved in sports, takes part in an activity, or volunteers, keeping them engaged in your community with others will benefit them for years to come. Besides keeping them busy, they are creating memories.