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When I was a teenager, life was oh so different. I was always outside, usually meeting mates and kicking a ball around. But nowadays, teenagers seem to be stuck in their rooms on electronic devices.
In order to get your teenage children out into the fresh air and to join you on a walk then you need to really tap into what motivates them, and combine that into a walk. Try to tune in to what will convince them that it’s a good idea.
Take my eldest, Sophie. She likes photography, and particularly taking pictures of flowers. So to encourage that, taking her and her sister to a National Trust house, for example, and exploring the gardens, is a better option than saying to them let’s go for a walk – I just get the “I don’t want to response”.
Making the offer of a walk attractive to your children
As I think back to my teenage years wasn’t the same technical innovations which made staying at home so appealing. Yes, I sometimes watched a bit too much TV, but I didn’t have the internet, an Xbox, a mobile phone, and YouTube – these things weren’t around. So us kids would meet up instead.
I remember even when I wasn’t playing sports I would meet friends and we would roam around town exploring roads we had never been to. Nowadays I think we are more aware of the possible dangers of this, and also of the seemingly more aggravation some kids give others, but if you are looking to go out with your children then that is a different matter.
So what can you use to entice your child off their bed, to take their headphones off, and to put their trainers on? What interests do they have?
Now my children would love a dog, but as it is, that option is not on the horizon. As cute as a dog would be. But several times a year they get to look after a friend’s dog, who comes to stay when her owners go away. And they love it when Pippa stays, and getting out for a walk is so much easier.
If your children are the same, have you considered getting a dog? Now obviously that’s not something that can be done on a whim. There’s a lot of care that dogs need, but if you can provide a good home for a dog, for the rest of it’s life, then getting a dog is certainly an option for a child.
But don’t think they will do all the caring – you will almost certainly be doing at least 75% of the work involved, so unless you can do this, don’t buy a dog. But if you do, I would urge you to look at rescue dogs.
My partner Nicky rescued a dog from Romania – we have a friend who is involved in a charity that does this. Her children were excited but do they walk Paco? No. So not all children are the same – they may love a dog, but not all of them are prepared to go out with them.
So what other interests do your children have? Maybe they like shopping? If so, take them on a shopping trip, but park a bit further away, and walk through the park to get there. They may think you have gone mad, but just tell them the parking is cheaper or you heard from a friend that the nearby car park was full.
Do your children like swimming? Could you walk to the swimming pool? Maybe they are into science – could you take a trip to the Science Museum in London? Whatever your children are interested in, if you can tap into that and think creatively then you stand a better chance of prising them outside.
Is this bribery? I would say not – bribery would be like saying if you come out for a walk you can have this bar of chocolate when you get back. Mind you, that may work just as well, so I wouldn’t write that off completely!
Having “a talk” with your teenage child whilst walking
There are times when we all need to have a serious talk with our teenage children. Whether it be a motivational pull your socks up at school talk; a Grandma is not well so we need to look after her talk; or a where do you fancy going on holiday talk, going for a walk at the same time is a good way to get that talk done.
Firstly, the fact that you are taking their mind off their device of choice in the next room, they are more likely to listen. Keep the mood as light as possible, and get your points across in short steps, and they won’t realise quite what you have done to get them talking.
If it is a difficult talk, then the fact that they can walk side by side rather than having to sit there and look you in the eye, may mean that they will open up more.
Fueling your walk with your child
Don’t suggest a walk to your child just before lunch, unless you intend feeding them en route. They will lose focus, complain that they are hungry, and be itching to get back before you have even started.
Ideally they will have eaten breakfast, but I know a lot of children are skipping this most important meal. If you are out before lunch, and they have skipped an early breakfast, then give them something substantial but not over filling before you leave.
If they have eaten a few hours ago, then a nice apple or maybe a fruit smoothie would go down a treat? Something just as a top up would be a good idea – you know what healthy option would be most accepted by your child.
If you want your walk to be a success, then you need to make sure that their blood sugar level is stable.
Combining school work with a walk
Your teenage child may have a particular school project on, that you need to do some research on. As well as using the wonders of Google, why not take a walk to your nearest library? Remind them of the fact that they can get more in depth research from taking out a book and reading a chapter or two.
Even better, turn it into a field trip – maybe you can visit the nearest castle for History, seaside cliffs for Geography, or even a day trip to Boulougne for French. You get the idea, I am sure. And it doesn’t have to be for your teenage children either – if you have a younger school age child then ask your teenager to help you get the younger one inspired.
Perhaps your child has been invited to a friend’s house for the afternoon, or maybe even a party in the early evening. Obviously they will come and ask you to drive them, but why not tell them you will walk them there, but pick them up afterwards?
There’s a good chance that they won’t want you to come all the way – that would be far too embarrassing. But if that is the case, and you think they are old enough, why not agree to walk them to a point where they can meet another friend so that they can arrive together.
We did this the other day, although Sophie was quite adamant we were nowhere nearby whilst she waited for her friend. But they met in the local supermarket, where we knew they would be safe, although I had some shopping to do so bumped into them stocking up on sweets!
Conclusion – How to get your teenage children walking outside
So it’s not easy to get your teenage children out, but the more you do it, the more normal it seems. Don’t plan long hikes with a sulky teenager who wants to be elsewhere, that’s no fun for either of you, but be creative, accept that a short walk is better than no walk, and take what you can get. Maybe they will surprise you and suggest one themselves, although don’t hold your breath waiting for that!
If you are into hiking but just started a family, you need not give up on your hobby. To spend some quality time with your toddler, why not take them on a hike? You'll be able to bond and have fun...