Let your kids be wild.
These days, our kids’ lives are overscheduled, filled with pressure, and can be pretty intense. School, homework, sports and/or other extracurricular activities fill the week and often consumes many weekends as well. We all can feel like there is no time left to fit anything else in. There has to be. Our younger kids and teenagers need wilderness and adventure in their lives and who better to model it to them than us, their parents. I would actually argue that it is more important than a lot of the scheduled activities we have them in now. Wilderness and adventure will help develop them into well-rounded young adults.
1. Kids need the freedom to learn what life is like without a schedule.
There are so many books out there right now about the next generation and the lives they are living with the pressures that surround them and the belief that they cannot fail. Let them fail in some areas of their lives. The outdoors is a perfect place to learn to try new things. It takes a lot of work to get strong at wilderness activities, but there really is no failure – you just try again. I have found that getting my high school son out to climb, hike, and backpack has been the only thing that has provided him with some balance and perspective. Now that he is climbing regularly and hiking a lot on weekends too, he is starting to view school through a more realistic lens. It definitely helps with our kids that we started them out young and they have grown up living a lot of their lives outdoors. However, it is never too late. Take your kids out so they can actually just sit and watch a sunset instead of seeing it out the car window on the way to a game or academic event.
2. Kids of all ages need a connection to nature.
There is no substitute to exploring the natural world around us. While not all children have easy access to nature, there are many programs in cities that serve to get children involved with nature. If you are a parent who has access to wilderness around you, engage your children in it. This can range from something as simple as going on your first beginner hike (look them up right here on the Outbound Collective – there are most likely some right in your area) to cross-country skiing, backpacking, or photographing nature.
3. Kids need time to kick back and relax.
Provide them with boredom. Make them figure out how to entertain themselves when they are in a wilderness setting. One of my sons used to spend half a day building rock structures at the campsite or river. My older son kicks back in his hammock and just rests after hiking while staring up at the sky. That’s it. Nothing exciting, but so good for them.
4. Kids need to figure out how to exist without technology.
Seriously, I cannot even begin to list all of the things that suck up our kids’ time when they are at home. If you have younger kids, it is often ipads, video games or TV. With older kids there is the computer they need for their schoolwork and research, texting, social media and on and on. Take them to places where there is no cell service at all. I am totally serious. If they have phones, they will learn to take photos of their adventures and the beauty around them since nothing else will work on those devices they cannot let go of. They will probably gain a real appreciation for nature. Show them that not only can they survive without technology, but they can thrive and love the time away.
5. Kids must be taught the importance of conservation.
In my opinion, the next generation isn’t going to have the option of not conserving our resources. Teach them how to do it now and model it constantly for them. We have a huge role to play here. Take them out where there are national forest and park rules about feeding animals, litter, packing in and packing it out, etc. Help them learn how important the natural world is.