I often feel so sorry for youngsters today. Most of them live life in the huge goldfish bowl of social media with so many false expectations to try and live up to. Although social media and the internet are wonderful tools, for the inexperienced they can often lead to a fake and fickle bubble some young people live in and many believe they are not good enough. Coupled to that, they have the constant bombardment of bad news, fake news or general doom and gloom.
Some young teenagers haven’t yet developed that resilience to cope and they are MUCH more exposed to this sort of thing. Whether they readily admit it or not, I think teens care deeply about the world we live in and take things to heart. For example, this week HUNDREDS of times I have heard or seen the following; cancer (1 in 2 will be affected), war, pollution, plastics, global warming, Brexit, terrorism, stabbings, drugs, theft, chaos and hate. It’s no wonder that there are so many misunderstood mental health issues with the pressures and fears our children face.
Getting outdoors is one way to build that resilience and help children and young adults see the world from a different, wonderful and beautiful perspective. From a really young age, my daughter enjoyed walking and being in the outdoors so much. It provided fresh air, exercise and lovely rosy-cheeks! She wanted to walk everywhere and has completed most of the tallest peaks in the UK with her favourite being Mount Snowdon at the age of six. We were up early ready with our kit and out the door to explore almost every weekend. We wild-camped, camped and glamped throughout the UK.
But then the inner tween (and lots of homework) took over at the age of about eleven – she is thirteen now. It’s not as easy to get her out and about, but I still try my best as I know it is so good for her.
I know that her friends are her life right now and she needs her time and space more than anything, which is granted, but I also know that getting out once in a while is vitally important to help her appreciate the natural world and not just the world that is portrayed on her laptop, mobile or TV.
Some of strategies to keep young teens engaged with the outdoors…
Involve them– give them some control, ask them where they would like to go or what kind of expedition they would like to go on, for example a hill, lake, reservoir or forest, biking, hiking or walking
Plan ahead– choose a day to get outdoors and put in on the calendar so they know when and where they are going so they know what to expect
Food– couple the adventure with a visit to a café and bribe with hot chocolate and cake OR take a picnic with lots of yummy food.
Enthusiasm– if you’re not passionate about being outdoors they won’t be.
Enjoyment– catch them enjoying something and prove to them that being outdoors is a really good thing – notice what they admire on route and talk about it
Responsibility– encourage them to help read the map, increasing their skills – let them be the photographer
Praise– use a fitbit/strava or similar to clock up the kilometres or ascent so they can see how much they have done to help them feel proud
Dress for the weather– nothing worse than having soggy feet, freezing hands or a sunburnt head
MOST IMPORTANT– HAVE FUN!!!
Even though it might be a lot of effort to try and get tweens out of bed and ready for the outdoors it really is so beneficial to their health and well-being. I was really pleased the other morning when she said to me ‘Mum, shall we go up Catbells again soon….’ This was her very first Lake District hill and she wants to go again. Happy days – perhaps she does love the outdoors after all!
It doesn’t have to be a hill or a mountain if you’re not into that – just a walk around the block together, to the park or beach…anywhere to get them away from the stressors of modern, teenage life.
‘WHEN CHILDREN COME INTO CONTACT WITH NATURE, THEY REVEAL THEIR STRENGTH’