"Keep 'em busy, and they'll stay out of trouble," is the mantra for parents of teens--but you may be in need of fresh ideas for teen activities. If you feel your kid spends too much time online, on the phone or on the couch, these activities will motivate your teen to get involved in the world around her.
1. Extracurricular Activities
Extracurricular activities have the double advantage of keeping your kid busy while allowing her to socialize with kids from school. Extracurricular activities also help your kid develop certain skills that can help her stand out from the pack when applying for college later on. Most schools offer band, dance and drill team, choir and theatre activities. Outside of school, you can usually find gymnastics classes, ballet and community theatre.
2. High School Sports
Just like extracurricular activities, high school sports keep your kid busy with her peers, while learning the value of teamwork. Participation in sports can also lead to potential college scholarships. Most schools offer football, basketball, volleyball, tennis, golf, and track and field, and some offer even wider options including bowling and lacrosse.
3. Get a Job
Getting a part-time job is a rewarding experience, teaching your teen greater responsibility and accountability as she earns money. If part-time jobs are scarce in your community, encourage your kid to start a business--babysitting, lawn care and even web design for the tech savvy teen.
4. Community Youth Groups
Youth groups offer a great opportunity for your teen to bond with her peers while helping others in her community. Most youth groups do a considerable amount of charity work, anything from building homes with Habitat for Humanity to gathering toys for Toys for Tots. These projects can give your teen a deeper awareness of others who are less fortunate.
Even if your teen isn't involved in a youth group, she can still help others by volunteering. Volunteers are needed in all parts of the community, from hospitals to libraries, to soup kitchens. Encourage your teen to find a cause she's passionate about, and have her devote some of her energy and time to supporting that cause.
6. Study Groups
If your teen is having trouble with a particular subject, encourage her to form a study group with her classmates. Group studying offers the dual advantage of social interaction and (hopefully) improved grades. All you need to do is supply the venue and some basic supervision.
7. Game Night
Make your kid step away from the Wii and encourage her to enjoy an old-fashioned game night--either with the family or with friends. Break out the Monopoly, Life, or Scrabble, pop some popcorn, and have lots of silly fun.
There are many cool ways to get your kid involved and engaged with the outside world--but one of the best ways is to lead by example. Find ways that you can step outside of your working world, and devote some of your time to volunteer work, sports, or the arts. Then, encourage your teen to do the same. You will find you both have a deeper appreciation for life and the world!
Sarah Baker is a documentary filmmaker and writer currently living in New Bern, NC. Her first book, Lucky Stars: Janet Gaynor and Charles Farrell, will be published December 2009. Read more about her.