Our age is characterized by the perfection of means and the confusion of goals.” Those wise words were spoken by Albert Einstein many years ago. They still are true. As we move forward in time we find ourselves with more means, i.e.., having the tools to have a wonderful life. Such as cell phones, the internet, a more affluent society and yet we are struggling with what are the goals we have for ourselves.
This confusion of goals is passed down to our teens as well. We can tell them the old saw: “Get good grades, do well in school, get a good job and you’ll have a good life.” But is that true? Aren’t those superficial accomplishments in some way? Yes, academics and doing well are prescriptions of success but only to a degree.
Our teens are in crisis because they are surrounded by adults who are unhappy or unfulfilled. They see what Brene Brown described as “the most medicated, anxious, depressed generation in human history.” Their parents are not doing well managing their own stressors. How can they help their teens navigate the challenges of growing up in America today? In addition adolescents are feeling the effects of their changing bodies and strong emotions.
One of the ways parents can help their kids and themselves is to get outdoors. There is nothing like being in nature to help kids slow down, relax and attune to their environment. Studies have proven that our heart rate lowers and blood pressures drop when we are in the natural world.
It is good to start when your kids are young and camping or hiking is part of the family culture but starting at any time in your kids lives benefits them and you.
It can be taking them on overnight camping trips, backpacking in deep wilderness or even day hikes in local parks to give them this important and grounding experience.
Part of the crisis for our teens is overstimulation. They are too connected to their phones, computers, etc. It lacks sensory input we need to feel alive. To be outside, slowing down and taking the time to listen to the bird calls, the wind rustling the leaves in the trees, etc. that can help them slow down and be more present.
Being present to themselves, their bodies and feelings goes a long way in giving them a sense of belonging; belonging to the earth, the natural world that we are all a part of.
Now is a good time of year to begin planning trips to national parks, state parks and wilderness areas. You can include your teens in the planning and have them research online places they would want to see. There are tons of guide books and information available. If they are ready and willing have them work with you to meal plan, shop, pick destinations and then go create memories.
They and you will be rewarded when you return with pictures, videos and shells or rocks picked up on a beach walk. You will all be calmer and more centered in yourselves. Even recalling those events can restore a sense of calm. And nothing better can be added to those memories than planning the next seasons trips and outings. A family that plays together (in the woods) stays more connected, calmer and that benefits everyone.