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Teenagers and Free Time


teens and parents riding bikes


Teenagers need free time to explore their own interests, be with friends or just unwind. If you and your teenager can find free time activities to enjoy together, it can be a great way to build on your relationship.

All teenagers are different and like to do different things. Many like to spend their free time with friends, shopping, going to parties, using the computer for games or other online activities, social networking, texting, watching movies, reading and going to the beach or park.

Teenagers are also spending an increasing amount of their free time in structured extracurricular activities such as arts and sports. Teens may often feel bored with unstructured spare time.

Free time with parents and family

One of the joys of the teenage years is discovering the things you have in common with your teenager, or new things your child might open your eyes to. Spending free time together is a great way to stay connected with your teenage child.

Finding the balance between showing an interest in your child’s activities and respecting their need for independence can be tricky.

Activities with you

Doing something one-on-one with one or both parents can be a treat for your child, especially in larger families. An occasional movie together, or even a quick meal or a drink in a restaurant after another activity, can feel a bit special.

These activities might not happen spontaneously. You might need to discuss ideas with your child and plan to spend some time together. If this is a new experience, it might take a bit of persuasion before your child is enthusiastic about it. If your child is reluctant, you could suggest inviting one or two of your child’s friends along as well.

Other moms and dads suggest the following activities for sharing free time with your child:

  • seeing a movie you’re both interested in
  • listening to music together at home or going to a concert
  • going to a hockey game or other sports match
  • checking out local events such as markets, festivals or environmental activities
  • going away for a weekend to an event, such as a show or an exhibition
  • cooking together
  • going out for a meal together.

Activities for the whole family
If you’ve got teenagers and younger children, a family meeting can get everyone brainstorming activities to enjoy as a family. You could make a couple of lists – activities to do together, and activities that only some of you will do.

Some activities the whole family could do might include:

  • watching a family-friendly DVD – you could check out our movie reviews for ideas
  • having a picnic
  • playing a favourite game or activity at a local park, such as soccer or throwing a frisbee
  • planning a special meal with everyone suggesting a dish
  • planning a holiday
  • going for a hike
  • going for a bike ride
  • walking the dog.

Free time with friends

Your child will also want to do things with his friends. Agreeing on some rules about free time can help keep your child safe when he’s out and about.

Here are some things to think about discussing.

How much do you need to know about where your child’s going, and who with? What details is it OK for your child to keep to herself? Should she call you if her plans change? Will she leave her cell phone on while she’s out or is there a number she can be reached at? You might try the “5 W” technique asking Who, What, When, Where and Why.

Monitoring your child is OK, as long as you’re doing it with the intention of making sure your child is safe.

Think about how available you’ll be for providing transportation. Can you drive your child to things if you have enough notice? Are you available if there is an emergency? Are you willing to offer a ride to other friends? Do you expect your child to use public transport?

Having Friends Over
Getting to know your child’s friends shows your child you understand how important her friendships are. One way to do this is to encourage your child to have friends over and give them a space to entertain. Think about how open you want your home to be. Will there be a curfew? Will you provide food? Does your teenager need to take responsibility for friend’s behavior, following house rules or, tidying up after?

Some of the activities your child’s interested in may cost money. You might want to talk to them about what activities you’re willing to pay for, how often and how much. You might also want to talk to them about an allowance. Discuss how much is fair amount in your family. Can extra chores earn extra money?

Screen time
Screen time is the time spent watching TV or DVDs, using the computer, playing video or hand-held computer games, and using a mobile phone.

A healthy family lifestyle includes limits on daily screen time, and sets a routine for when screen time finishes each evening. You might want to have a talk about how much time family members spend on these and other activities during daylight hours when they could be doing things that are more physically active. Some negotiation about screen time during the school week, on weekends and in the holidays might also help your child develop some valuable time management skills.

© Raising Children Network Limited, reproduced with permission.

Resources & Links:

HealthLink BC: Tips for Parents of Teens 

Last Updated: November 30, 2014