Teenagers Need to Get Outside
Need is a strong word. Need = a lack of something deemed necessary; a lack that must be fulfilled. Need has become indistinguishable from want, but they are two very different things. You can want something that you need, but you don’t always want what is needed. A simple example is exercise. Some people honestly do want to exercise, but many never want exercise even though it is needed for their health. The same is true of nature. We all have a deep need for nature and teenagers are no exception. The first step is to actually get outdoors.
Nature Deficit Disorder
Nature Deficit Disorder is characterized by a collection of mental health and physical symptoms that are caused or made worse by a lack of time outdoors. Many of the symptoms include anxiety, depression, ADHD, myopia and obesity-all health issues that are on the rise in the teen population. The phrase “nature deficit disorder” was coined by author Richard Louv who has written several books on the topic that I would recommend to any parent in the throws of raising teens or who has teens coming along.
Why Getting Outside Isn’t Natural Anymore
With the rise in technology and the social access we have through that technology, it is getting harder and harder to pull our teenagers away from the screen. The average teenager spends up to 7 hours in front of a screen (not including school work). The most natural thing to do in this technology era is to dive deeper and deeper into the rabbit hole of information. If you have not watched the documentary The Social Dilemma, I would encourage you to do so. You will see the very ways in which social media is programmed to pull our teens further in to the web.
Like us, you are likely struggling to entice your teens away even though they know they shouldn’t. Guess what-that’s why they still have parents! It’s our job to build in to them and equip them to set time limits as well as enforce the family rules in order that they can be the best teenager possible. After all, they will all become adults at some point and it would behoove society to raise them as such.
Benefits of Outdoors for Teens
Research has repeatedly proven that time in nature reduces levels of stress, depression and anxiety by lowering the stress associated chemical cortisol. Being surrounded by nature increases focus, mindfulness, wonder and tranquility. So, not only does nature suppress the negatives, but it increases the positive qualities we all want to see in our teens. Nature also restores mental energy, which helps combat what I refer to as the tech zap. The more time spent in front of the screen, the more exhausted our minds become. Nature gives that energy back to us and is an antidote to why teens get depressed.
How to Get Your Teen Outdoors
- Start Small so you and your teenager isn’t overwhelmed. Don’t try to change everything all at once or you will face rebellion.
- Set limits and expectations. Clear communication will help these changes go more smoothly.
- Move typical daily tasks to be outdoors. Read a book in a hammock or take the dog for a walk in the woods instead of the neighborhood.
- Let your teenager decide how he/she wants to spend time in nature. Their ideas matter and letting them have a voice will create “buy-in”
- Do something WITH your teen in nature. Go to the strawberry farm WITH your teenager and then make a cobbler together. Your teens need you to be the example!
- Plan family time in the great outdoors. Give your teen a few mini adventures outside and do an outdoor family activity together.
- Encourage your teen to try something new outside. Nature is a great place to push boundaries in a healthy way. Let them try adventures outdoors like mountain biking or snowboarding!
Before you know it, you will have teens that are addicted to the outdoors because they will be fulfilled in the things they are looking for. It’s not hard to be active outdoors, but you should focus on the outdoor activities that appeal to your teen most.