Fun Things for Parents to do with their Teenagers

Fun things for parents to do with their teenagers?  Hmmmmm.  This can be an incredibly tough question.  We only have so much time with these precious beings, and we want to make good use of the short time.  Let’s be honest though.  Between the common eye roll, one-syllable response, and social media competing for their attention, it can feel as though the last thing they want to do is spend their free time with us.

teenager sitting in grass

Let Me Sum Up this Post Right Here: Who cares!!!!

Do it anyway!

As parents of teens, they may make us feel (and actually truly think they feel) as though we don’t need to prioritize time together.  This, however, is so far off from reality.  When we are intentional about spending time with our kids through their teen years, we are solidifying the relationship.  We are telling them they mean enough to us, that we want to pause our busy lives, and pour into theirs.

Spending time together subtly reminds them you are on their side.  They’re not alone.  They’re likeable and worthy of someone’s time.  They’re wanted and valuable.  No, most teens won’t vocalize this, but one day they will realize it.  

In any case, let’s just say I’m wrong about this, at least you can find peace in the fact that you not only hoped for this, but did it.  You don’t want to look back one day and realize you let your teens totally shut out their family and weren’t a part of that important chapter of their life.

Pause for a Side Note (Okay, a Soapbox.)

Have you ever realized that it is society that has driven it’s nose between parents and their children? Think about it.  From the moment they are either sent to daycare, preschool, pre-K, Kindergarten, and the oh-so-important extracurricular activities that can’t only take each night and all day Saturday, but must also take Sunday morning too, the world is telling them to pull away from their family.  

Family becomes so secondary to the rest of life.  You know, the important parts of life that kids just interrupt for the parents.  Vice versa in that family interrupts the kids’ social life.  After all, parents and siblings aren’t supposed to be cool, and if you make the mistake in thinking they are cool, you are obviously a loser.  (To clarify:  that was all sarcasm, yet too often the ugly truth.)  

We Need Appropriate Balance

The emphasis on friends breaks my heart.  Sure friends are absolutely wonderful and so important. The problem comes when the idea is heard through our everyday actions that friends are more important than family.  

How does that work?  Seriously.  Are you still friends with your little three year old play date buddy? Most likely not.  Good thing your parents put so much weight in all those relationships, huh?  Ouch.  I know I am stepping on some toes here, but we need to do a priority check.  Again, the years go by so fast. I’m not going to make the choice to just have life revolve around friends at the sake of our family.

Yes, there are social skills to be learned through interaction with others, but I can assure you that our five kids have given each other more than enough practice at dealing with other people.  Not to mention, most people, as adults, do not only interact with people their age.  Rather, we have to know how to interact with people of all ages and stages of life.  Young people, older people, our peers.  

I Believe it is Time to Change some Things

With this in mind, all of a sudden, am I the only one wondering why we make such a push to have all these outside friendships?  Is there some kind of problem with siblings being friends?  Dare I suggest best friends?

In full transparency, our kids are not always even friends, let alone best friends.  However, my prayer is, and I can see over the years, that these sibling relationships are deep and strong.  Our older kids and our younger kids often have no choice but to do life together as an entire family.  To hear their laughter and conversation makes my heart spill over.  After that ten seconds is over, it’s back to repeating Ephesians 4:29 for the fifth time today.  Just kidding.  Kind of.   I’m sure most of you parents can relate in that our kids are either best of friends or flat out enemies at the time.  Very seldom is there an in between.  

“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”

Ephesians 4:29

In the same breath, friends also get on each other’s nerves and have conflict.  It’s really not that different, but the world says, family is not enough.  I want to change that message.  Ok, I’ll get off my rant now.  Thanks for listening.

Back to Fun Things for Parents to do with their Teenagers

At this time of this post, Mark and I have one teenage son and one teen daughter.  It is so true that life with older kids is SO much different than with littles.  It was so easy when they wanted to be with you.  (Trying not to cry over here.)  But, that shouldn’t stop us, so here we go.  

Let’s get into some Actual Ideas of Fun Things for Parents to do with their Teenagers

Go Get Ice Cream

Naturally ice cream is delicious. (Locals, are you familiar with Horatios?  THE BEST ice cream!) However, if that’s not your thing, grab a soda, coffee, cheese curds, candy bar, any kind of healthy treat (drawing a blank here, but you know what it is if that’s your preference), ect.  You get the idea. The point is that it’s not only about the food.  Just being in the car is a bonding time.  Maybe you’ll simply have the radio on.  Want to sing?  Great.  Prefer the silence?  That’s also fine.  Your teen wants to talk?  Even better.  The most important thing is to let them lead this time.  Either way it is a win.  You’re building the relationship, and hey, if you get a 16oz Carmel Frappe out of the deal, even better.

Little tip, don’t force the conversation if this is simply a fun trip.  On the other hand, taking a drive when you do have something important to discuss can be a very good tool to have a better chance of a successful tough talk.

Go Bowling…Cosmic Bowling

Bowling wasn’t just the thing to do back when it was under a disco ball.  Although that’s not to say that cosmic bowling isn’t a blast!  In fact, that’s sometimes preferred with teens involved.  When the lighting is dark and the music is loud, it can take some pressure off both the teen and the parents.  After all, it’s too loud to talk, and it’s so dark, you’re not as easy to recognize.  (You know, should someone cool happen to see you guys there.)  

The environment gives off that happy vibe which should help with any attitude problems.  My idea would be to take their lead on how excited to get or not get on a good turn.  Mark’s idea would be to cheer obnoxiously.  The truth is, they look like they hate it, but their heart is smiling.  (Is that actually true, or do I just tell myself that?)  

Shoot.  I forgot to give the caveat that we are learning as we go. Sorry about that! 

Carrying on…As you know each child is different.  Going with the good idea of bowling above, we would do this with both teens.  By the same token, we’ve gone regular bowling in the middle of the day with the little kids too.  It is also SO much fun.  Not to mention, one of our teens is usually actually there to better his game.  The hubbub of black lights and loud music isn’t the most conducive to this.

popcorn and movie tickets

Movie Night

You can have a fun time simply in your living room with movie night (or make it a movie marathon). Forget family dinner that night, and pop some popcorn.  Enjoy it while you watch a great movie.  It can be so hard to find appropriate movies.  Let me help you with that.  A great resource to review movies, as well as shows, is  

Often the movies we watch are movies Mark or I have already seen.  Sadly, our teenage daughter isn’t into RomComs, but we can usually find something in the middle of the road that we can both tolerate. And if we can’t, we let it be Papa Night which opens up the genres some.  National Treasure was recently a big hit.  I can’t believe I didn’t think of that sooner.    

Don’t be to quick to throw out the oldies either.  We have had more than one great time watching black and white movies.  Not to mention kids today can use a little of that nostalgia and slower paced entertainment.  The Swiss Family Robinson series was another great one that lasted for days.  It was fun having something to look forward to with everyone.

ps…Don’t fall into the idea that because they’re teens, you need to be extra-cool and watch something you really shouldn’t be.  That is just unnecessary and not a good life lesson.

Family Game Night

Another great activity is to pull out your best board games and a deck of cards.  Sometimes it does take more convincing with some more than others to decide to play.  But generally once we start, everyone has a good time.  Even if we only get in one game, it is a great way to laugh and rib one another a little bit.  

It’s not always a perfect time, and everyone has their own level of participation that can end at any moment.  But for that golden part of time, I’m thankful for games such as Dutch Blitz, Tripoloy, 5 Crowns, and Spoons.  We can’t forget Tenzie.  So many good board games!  Card games too!  Pull out the snacks, and it’s a win.

Water and Amusement Park

Our family is pretty laid back.  Most of our trips are to visit family who live in other states. Occasionally, however, we take in something really fun like a water park.  At this point, we enjoy them so much, can you even have summer vacation without going to one?  

The best thing about a water park over a theme park is there are so many water rides that the whole family can go on together in the big tubes.  This is the perfect opportunity for screaming and laughing. Plus, when we reminisce about it, we were all there to enjoy the memory.   

Head to the Lake

And if you have access to a boat, use it!  Rent one if you have to.  This is hand’s down one of our favorite family activities.  The rushing wind as you’re cruising on the water.  Huge splashes and spinning cookies on the water.  The Vitamin D everyone is getting from the sun, only to jump in the water and be refreshed by the coolness.  Things at the lake are just chill.  That’s all there is to it.  

Even if you don’t have a boat, just go to swim and hang out on the beach.  Keep it simple.  Grab some snacks and cool beverages and enjoy them on a beach towel/blanket.  You don’t have to talk.  Just being in the environment does something for you.  You’ll be glad you did.

Have You Ever Tried an Escape Room?

Another fun thing for parents to do with their teens is an Escape Room.  Mark and I have been to one, but not with the kids yet.  One of our teens in particular would absolutely love it.  It is so up their alley.  

That’s just the thing.  We need to remember to take their personalities and passions into mind.  Yes, they need to learn the life skill of doing things that wouldn’t necessarily always be their first choice.  In the same breath, how much more will it mean to them to do something you know they’d love?

family roasting marshmallows

Family Camp

Taking in a family camp is another item on our bucket list of fun activities to do with our teens and their younger siblings. 

I don’t want to give the impression that the 7 of us are always together, all the time.  No one complains.  Everyone is happy, and there is no place anyone would rather be.  Nay, often we aren’t even to the destination, and things are already chaotic leaving us wondering why we even tried.  We, as the parents, have literally have had to dig deep to just carry out the plan with a happy heart.

The thing about something such as family camp is the variety of options and other relationships that can be built.  We have one camp in particular that we want to go to.  It is a Christian camp, meaning that on top of several great activities, we are also getting our souls fed. We are growing both individually and as a family closer to God. 

It is a pretty safe assumption that other families who are there have similar visions for their family. Hence these are relationships we definitely want to pursue.  Again, this post isn’t saying friends aren’t a good thing.  They are very good.  We just want the appropriate balance.

From rock climbing to the obstacle course, music and art, ziplines and jigsaw puzzles, there is likely something everyone will have a blast with.  All while building the family unit and making lifelong memories.  I need to make this one happen.  Soon.

This is no way a Conclusive List of Fun Things for Parents to do with their Teenagers

There are a lot of fun things to do that haven’t been covered.  We barely scratched the surface. National parks.  Laser tag.  I haven’t even touched on branding, which is quite possibly our family’s very favorite thing to do.  Fun things for parents to do with their teens will look different for each family.  Each family dynamic is different.  Case in point, you may not even know what I’m talking about when I say “branding”.

Each member in the family is also different.  For example, when I asked one of our teens what she likes to do with us for fun, here is how the conversation went down:  

“Fun?  We never do anything fun, because you guys don’t like the things I like.  We never do anything exciting and dangerous,” said teen.

​To which Papa replied, “We could drink expired milk.  That would be exciting and dangerous.”  

Oh, parenting.  Lol.  At least she was laughing, and it provided us an ideal time to reflect on the things we actually do together. (As well as a talk on danger.) We reminded her that it doesn’t have to be skydiving.  (Much to her dismay.)  We can start to take even the little things for granted, which is not what we are hoping for.  

Don’t Complicate This

Keep in mind that spending time together doesn’t have to be something big.  Too much expectation of it needing to be a certain level of  “fun” can quickly put too much pressure on the situation.  By the same token, if you overthink this, you may end up skipping anything all together.  You definitely don’t want that!

Keep it natural.  Don’t try too hard.  At the same time, feel free to really surprise everyone, and do something totally out of the ordinary.  There are no rules to this other than don’t let it stress you out.  It is also crucial that you don’t let attitudes discourage you into just not doing anything.  Those tricky teens can make you feel as though there really is no point in all this effort.  Don’t fall into the trap.

Continue coaching bad attitudes out the door, and yet, if they subside, keep with the plan.  There’s a good chance the bad attitude will dissipate.  Don’t give up on the idea as making time for things like this is so important.

In Conclusion

We only get one chance with this stage of life.  It is challenging and yet sublime raising teens.  You see them growing in so many new and exciting ways, and not long after, they remind you that they still need parents.  Nonetheless, they need to know the measure you hold them in your heart.  Remind them that you will always be home.  

A healthy parent-child relationship will increase their self-confidence.  It lays the foundation that they don’t have to be perfect or be afraid to fall.  From all the quality time, fun days, work days, family trips, not-so-fun activities…LIFE…they will have a deeply rooted understanding that they are loved, cherished, and desired.  You want these pivotal characteristics to be passed down to their children.

I can assure you that you won’t look back one day and think you spent too much time with your kids. Let this be a reminder and encouragement to not have the opposite be true.  You don’t want to wish you would’ve been more present with them.  

You are the lucky one, mom and dad, to get the opportunity to learn who they are in their heart of hearts.  You get to set the tone and the plan for the days.  You don’t want to outsource this oh-so-special task.  Make the days count.

15 Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.

Ephesians 5:15-17