One of the most common misconceptions that parents of teenagers have is that their children no longer want to spend time with them. This idea stems partially from the rising importance of friends, as children become teenagers, and the resulting time that they want to spend with them.
The concept that teens would rather not be with their parents also comes from the complaining that often occurs when parents mention an outing they are planning. Parents tend to conclude that since their kids do not want to go on this or that excursion, they then do not want to spend any time with them.
It is vital that parents banish this misconception forever. Teens not only want to spend time with their parents, they become angry and frustrated when they can't. The teenage years are the most insecure that children experience. They badly need the presence of their parents, both as company and as mentors. BUT there is a difference.
Now that the kids are older and as they are beginning to develop an identity of their own, they no longer accept their parent's bidding unquestionably. They don't like to be told where they are going and when, they want to have some input. They want the outing to be at least partially their idea.
This is where the complaining often comes from. They also may already have plans with their friends for the time period you are suggesting, thus creating a conflict of interest.
The key, then, to going places with your teenagers, is to plan ahead and get their input. Instead of just telling them on Friday that the family is going for a hike in the Kananaskis on Saturday, it is much more effective to ask on Monday or Tuesday if they would like to go for a hike on the weekend. If the answer is positive, then ask which day do they prefer, and where would they like to go. Make each outing into a family planning meeting. In this case, get out the trail guides, discuss what food to bring, and review the clothing to carry in their backpacks.
This planning session adds greatly to the anticipation of the event as well as allowing the teens input into the decisions.
Once you have accepted this general approach to going on outings with teenagers, it is equally important to understand what kinds of activities your particular teens enjoy. You'll probably be surprised at how general these activities actually are. Most teens enjoy all kinds of activities with their parents, as long as they are consulted about them.
For example, they like going shopping, playing golf, hiking and picnicking, going to Stampede, and walks. They don't have to be exotic or expensive. They really do enjoy this time spent with their parents.
It is also not always necessary for the whole family to be on an outing, although this is preferable most of the time. Because kids differ so widely in their interests, sometimes one teen or another will prefer not to go. This should be allowed occasionally as it recognizes and respects individual differences.
Following this train of thought, it is often a good idea for parents to plan a yearly event with just one teen. For example, if Dad and one teen share an interest in skiing, he could plan a special ski trip for the two of them alone. He could organize a separate outing with another child who happens to have different interests. These events usually become much anticipated, with months being spent on the planning.
Family outings with teenagers are definitely very different from those with younger children. They require much more planning and notice. They are however, vital to the development of the teenager and to the closeness of the family unit. Don't be fooled by the teens "I don't care" attitude.
Assume they want to do things with you and plan accordingly. Respect the plans and outings that the teens have with their friends and work around these as much as possible. If family events have been a priority from an early age children will anticipate them just as much as teenagers as they did when they were younger. If they haven't been a priority, make them so. Teens need and want the company of their parents.
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