Backpacking with Teens: The benefits exceed physical fitness

The digitalization of today’s modern world has had a massive impact on teens. Children today spend an increasing amount of time on social media and online games, thus ignoring the outdoor aspect which is so important for their physical and emotional development.

My children have been active in Scouting for three years now and we enjoy many outdoor adventures. Today, I am pleased to welcome this guest post sharing the benefits of backpacking with teens.  ~ Eva

The best gift modern parents can gift to their teens is exposing them to a variety of outdoor adventures. Top of the list of these adventures is camping and its extension, backpacking. Backpacking is one of the most creative yet productive ways to prepare a teen for upcoming challenges of adulthood. Backpacking is not just a preparation for adventure but a groundwork for life. When done collaboratively with your teens, backpacking also becomes a time to be cherished.

Parents are the first tutors to their kids. Teen morale gets a boost when they get active. Engaging in activities along side their parents ensures support and encouragement from one another.  Thus, planning and preparing for a backpacking outing is an invaluable way to strengthen the bond between the two.

image of family backpacking in the snow with text Backpacking with Teens @EvaVarga.netBackpacking Builds a Bond

Proper planning is critical for a successful overnight backpacking trip. Involving teens with the preparation provides an opportunity to develop a groundwork for communication and trust. Parents and teens should work together to research the necessary equipment, learn the skills for navigating and tackling unforeseen accidents (first aid, wildlife encounters, etc.), as well as develop a training plan to meet the physical demands. Listed below are aspects which outline how planning and executing a backpacking trip can help develop a stronger relationship with your teen:

Communication: The teenage years are stressful and life-changing. Often, teens tend to tune out or ignore their parents, choosing instead to listen only to their peers. Planning a backpacking outing with your teens can help initiate better communication between parent and adolescent and thereby the development of a stronger bond.

Trust: When preparing for backpacking, there are certain circumstances that will demand both parents and teens work together. Such situations will, in turn, create a sense of responsibility within a teen and positive energy will be released while working together. Planning for the trip is the best time for both parents and teens to build trust with each other.

Perspective: Preparing for an overnight backpacking trip will initiate an understanding between parents and teens. The parents will acquire the ability to identify their teen’s perspective and a blend of creative ideas lead to better preparation.

Concentration: While planning and preparing for backpacking, teens will offer their views and ideas which parents will take into consideration. Such activity enforces relaxation within teens, in turn, relieving stress and spawning better concentration.

Bonds: Often, teenagers do not open up easily and sometimes keep their true feelings hidden away from parents. Through shared backpacking experiences, parents begin to see the strengths of their children and teens see their parents as mentors. This softens the walls they may have built up and encourages teens to be less guarded towards parents and present their views openly.

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Authors Bio

Yogi and Suchna believe in taking the road less travelled and stumbling upon some hidden gems along the way. For over a decade, they’ve mapped their way across various continents, sniffed out unusual routes, discovered new flavours and stayed at quirky hostels. TheBackpackerCo is their expression of soul travel. You can catch up with them at TheBackpackerCo – The Backpack Paris Trip Experts.

 

 

Raising Teens While Saving Your Sanity: 12 Must Read Books for Parents

When my children were toddlers, I recall our pediatrician giving me his sage advice, “You have one child of each sex. When they are young, your son will cause you the most frustration. When they reach their teen years, things will change. Raising teens is different. Parenting your son will become remarkably easier than your daughter. Your daughter will cause you the most concern and frustration when she is a teen.” These words have swirled about my head often since then.

When my son was climbing up the shelves to reach the garage door opener, I recalled his words.

When I found my son atop the kitchen counter digging into the used coffee grounds and observed a dozen raw eggs smashed on the floor below him, I recalled his words.

When we found him inside the dryer, I recalled his words. When our babysitter found him inside their dog carrier and she later shared her revelation, I recalled his words.

When I found him atop the rubbermaid tubs playing with the baby powder, I recalled his words.

callmetrouble

Struggles of Raising Teens

Now that they are both teens (or nearly so – my son will be twelve next month and my daughter is fourteen), I expected things to change. To be sure, I am no longer finding him in precarious places. Yet, the tides have not yet turned.

My daughter dutifully does her lessons without a lot of nagging from me. She keeps her room organized and tidy. She helps around the house, often doing the laundry or putting away the dishes without prompting.

She helps keep me on my toes, reminding me of appointments and lessons outside the house. She rarely ever complains about having to go to swim team (when she does, red flags go up as I realize she is coming down with some bug).

My son, on the other hand, is a different creature all together. His life motto is, “If it isn’t my idea and also fabulously fun, I want no part.”

We constantly butt heads over accountability. I have become a nagger. But don’t take my word for it …

I came across a great post on Facebook recently, encouraging us to sit down with our child, ask certain questions without any prompting, and then to repost the questions and answers along with our child’s name and age. My friend posted her 12-year-old son’s answers. They were so funny and endearing that I decided to do the exercise with my children.

Here’s an excerpt from my interview with my 11-year-old son:

What is something I say all the time?
“Go do your schoolwork”

What makes me happy?
“When I do my schoolwork”

What makes me sad?
“When I don’t do my schoolwork. No. Actually, when Prince died.”

Do you think you could live without me?
“No, because I’d never get my schoolwork done.”

What did I tell you? I am a nagger. I must admit I am at my wits end. I am frustrated and perplexed. I have begun to question if homeschooling is the right path for him. Would he be more successful being accountable to others?

 Raising Teens While Saving Your Sanity: 12 Must Read Books for Parents @EvaVarga.net

12 Must Read Books for Parents Raising Teens

I have thereby been doing a lot of reading lately. Here’s my top 12 list of must read books for parenting teens while maintaining your sanity. Admittedly, I have not yet read all of them. I have provided a little snippet for those I have, while the others came highly recommended to me by a dear friend. (Thank you, Aubrey!)

Parenting Teens with Love & Logic by Foster Cline & Jim Fay ~ I have had a lot of success with the Love & Logic techniques, especially when the kids were toddlers. As they’ve gotten older, however, we have not been as consistent, evidenced by the attitude and behaviors that are now magnified. This is one of the books I own and revisiting these strategies every now and again has been really helpful.

Queen Bees and Wannabes, 3rd Edition: Helping Your Daughter Survive Cliques, Gossip, Boys, and the New Realities of Girl World by Rosalind Wiseman ~ I first read this book when my daughter was about five years old. She wasn’t dealing with cliques or gossip at that age but it really helped me to better understand my own experience as a teen. I want to read this one again.

Odd Girl Out by Rachael Simmons ~ Similarly, I also read this one years ago. It was actually a book club selection and it provided a great opportunity to reflect on and share our own experiences.

Masterminds and Wingmen: Helping Our Boys Cope with Schoolyard Power, Locker-Room Tests, Girlfriends, and the New Rules of Boy World by Rosalind Wiseman ~ Having read her previous title (noted above), I was very eager to read this one. I found myself constantly taking pictures with my cell phone of passages I wanted to remember and/or discuss with my spouse. Ultimately, I made the decision to purchase this book along with Queen Bees and Wannabes.

The New Strong-Willed Child by James C. Dobson ~ My son is indeed strong-willed and is skilled at wearing us down to get his way. I look forward to reading Dobson’s advice for creating a home filled with love and how to discipline a difficult child while making it evident to the child that they are loved, special, and cared for.

In Untangled: Guiding Teenage Girls Through the Seven Transitions into Adulthood, Lisa Damour outlines seven transition phases that girls experience as they progress from childhood to adulthood. The phases are relatively self-explanatory. They are 1) parting with childhood, 2) joining a new tribe, 3) harnessing emotions, 4) contending with adult authority, 5) planning for the future, 6) entering the romantic world, and 7) caring for herself. These phases aren’t necessarily experienced at specific ages in one specific order, but Damour offers a general guide for how most girls mature. I recommend it for parents who have a preteen daughter so they can be prepared in advance to handle situations as they arise.

Raising Cain: Protecting the Emotional Life of Boys by Dan Kindlon & Michael Thompson ~ This title was actually recommended to me by our pediatrician years ago and I recall enjoying it. Now that my son is nearly a teen, it warrants another read. As children age, they undergo many changes – both physically and emotionally. What I gleaned from this book when my son was a toddler will not serve me well now that I am raising teens.

Boys Should Be Boys: 7 Secrets to Raising Healthy Sons by Meg Meeker ~ I have not yet read this title but from the synopsis, I am very intrigued. The author explores the secrets to boyhood, including why rules and boundaries are crucial–and why boys feel lost without them as well as the pitfalls parents face when talking to their sons.

Meg Meeker has authored two additional titles that strongly interest me. The first, Strong Mothers, Strong Sons: Lessons Mothers Need to Raise Extraordinary Men, acknowledges that raising sons presents a challenge that raising daughters does not. After all, I as a woman can remember being a girl and young woman; I can never fully understand what it is like to be male. We still have a very important role to play in our son’s development, however. We “lay the foundation for how he will relate to women for the rest of his life.” 

The second, Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters: 10 Secrets Every Father Should Know, is a powerful book for fathers. As one reviewer on Amazon stated,  “If you want her to grow up emotionally healthy and able to face the pressures that our parents never knew and therefore didn’t know how to equip *us* to deal with, read this book, it will tell you how.”

The 5 Love Languages of Teenagers: The Secret to Loving Teens Effectively by Gary D. Chapman has been all over social media this past year. Though I haven’t read the book, I have read numerous blog posts and even asked each of my family members to take an online quiz to determine our individual love languages. This one is definitely on my “books to read list”.

This last title is more for your teen, than for you as a parent. Don’t Let Your Emotions Run Your Life for Teens: … Helping You Manage Mood Swings, Control Angry Outbursts, and Get Along with Others by Sheri Van Dijk will help teens find new ways of managing their feelings. Based on dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), a type of therapy designed to help people who have a hard time handling their intense emotions, this workbook helps teens learn the skills necessary to ride the ups and downs of life with grace and confidence.
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You’ll find more lists of Must Read Books at the iHomeschool Network linkup.

How We Found Harmony with Love and Logic

When the kids were toddlers, we used Love & Logic strategies and they worked like a charm. As the kids got older, we strayed and their behavior worsened.  Hubby & I recently revisited the philosophies of Love & Logic and have begun to re-implement the strategies we’d had such success with in the past.  In doing so, we have found harmony and peace in our home once more.

love & logic

When the kids were toddlers, I had read Love and Logic Magic for Early Childhood: Practical Parenting From Birth to Six Years.  This book was particularly helpful to me because I tend to react emotionally rather than logically. It offered practical steps really worked. The book emphasizes the value of children experiencing the natural consequences of their actions (logic) while simultaneously encouraging parents to empathize with their children prior to disciplining (love).

When I took a step back and reflected on my son’s behavior, I realized that I had become lazy.  I was not longer consistent and he began to react accordingly – testing and pushing the boundaries. While I had the skills, I had begun to let my emotions lead me.

I thereby picked up a copy of Love and Logic Magic When Kids Leave You Speechless to refresh my memory of the Love & Logic strategies that had worked so well in the past.   Upon applying just a couple of the skills outlined in this book, most notably ‘neutralize arguing’, I was able to remove the emotion and speak to my child with love, thereby allowing them to learn natural consequences of their behavior. Here are a couple of examples of how I implemented Love & Logic recently:

Scenario #1 – Experimenting with Chocolate

I wake to discover the little man was experimenting with cooking something or another.  There were drops of chocolate all over the kitchen floor from the microwave to the sink, a plastic bowl in sink with burnt chocolate encrusted around the rim and a gaping hole in the bottom, a puddle of chocolate and butter hardened on the bottom of the microwave, and Wilton chocolate candy melt bags strewn across the counter.

When the little man awoke, I greeted him warmly as usual. I asked if he slept well to which replied that he had. I asked if he stayed up late and did any experimenting in the kitchen. He gave me a wry grin. “How did it go?” I inquired.

“Not so good. I tried to make a chocolate bar but I didn’t use the right stuff.”

“Hmmm,” I responded. “What happened?”

“It got too hot and the bowl melted.”

“Anything else?” I asked.

“It dripped on the floor.”

“Oh! Did you clean it up?”

“No. I didn’t know how.”

“Well, you can hire me to do it for you. I am very experienced at cleaning up messes. I thereby charge for my expertise. You can pay me $2 to clean it up for you or you can clean it up yourself.”

“What?! I don’t want to pay you. $2 is too much,” he retorts as a frown shows on his face.

“I understand. You have a choice, Sweetheart,” I explain. “You can do it yourself or you can pay someone else. Maybe your sister will charge less?”

“I don’t know how to do it.”

“I suppose you could probably do some research or even ask someone with experience for suggestions.”

“Okay. Mom, how do I clean it up?”

Scenario #2 – Sibling Arguments

Kids were arguing one morning and the tensions were rising. I went into the room and calmly stated, “I’m going to charge you both $2 per minute to listen to you argue. I’m starting my stopwatch now.” I then walked away.

They each came to me and complained how the other had offended them. I repeated, “I charge $2 per minute to listen to you argue and to mediate.” The arguments stopped almost immediately.

A short time later, they could be heard helping one another rehearse and memorize their script for the living history event the following day.

Love … Love & Logic!

I have recently enjoyed an on-demand webinar entitled, Success with Strong-Willed, Stubborn or Downright Defiant Kids.  This nearly four hour webinar provides a fantastic overview of proven strategies and skills for working with kids – particularly the middle and high school level child who has honed his own strategies for getting us to focus on things we can’t control.

Through the webinar, Charles Fay reviews the basics of the Love and Logic philosophy and then presents examples of and solutions to problems that we encounter so frequently as parents and teacher. Removing the threats and constant badgering and just letting him logically work out the consequences has had a much greater and faster impact than I could have imagined.

 

While I purchased the two books myself and have been using Love and Logic for years, access to the webinar was provided to me in exchange for my unbiased review.

Conversations with Indiana Jones

Have you ever sent your child to his room with instructions to pick up everything from the floor only to check his progress half an hour later and discover the Indiana Jones Lego mini-fig in a stand off against the Playmobil Roman gladiators??

Of course you have.

indiana grand canyonImagine my surprise the first time I found an Indiana Jones mini-fig excavating the archeological ruins of the Romans when nothing should have been on the floor by that point, let alone more things. It is not uncommon when I say, “do your Mandarin homework” that Sweetie dutifully sits down to finish writing out her characters while Buddy has somehow found a piece of string that has now become a whip, and apparently I am René Belloq; because Buddy and his whip have thwarted all my efforts to get him on track.  Then again,

Nothing surprises me; I’m a scientist.

Turns out you don’t need to speak like Marion to get a young archeologist’s attention, you simply have to know what motivates him and use it accordingly. Perhaps the promise of a new Lego set if the trash is taken out each day for the entire month. Maybe an enormous carrot like an Indiana Jones themed birthday party will entice your young explorer to avoid arguments with his sister for three months.  Find your little man’s motivation and use it to encourage positive behavior. And when discussing his behavior and choices, it is important to remember,

Choose wisely, for while the true Grail will bring you life, the false Grail will take it from you.