Outdoor Challenges for Teens

"Youth Linc 2013" by Adrian Delgado2012

A 13 year old girl. Malavath Poorna, a daughter of impoverished farm workers in the lowest caste in India, just completed a summit of Everest. Amid all of the controversy surrounding the peak and the south side of the mountain, Poorna worked her way up to the top with 10 guides and a 16 year old friend. She’s now the youngest person ever to reach the summit of Mt. Everest. 

Your kids may not be planning something that audacious, but you still might like to involve them in outdoor pursuits this summer, and those outdoor pursuits can be a great way to encourage your teens to spread their wings and challenge themselves.

On the other hand, you don’t want them to endanger themselves or others. How can you help your teens identify appropriate challenges without being foolhardy?

  • Encourage them to hone their skills in safe situations. Kids who get some rock climbing practice in the safety of a supervised climbing gym will have the level of skill it takes to do something challenging without getting hurt. Outdoor sports are always safer for fit, skilled people — and being fit and skilled is great for your kids’ health and self-esteem, too.
  • Help them research their options. Often, teens make bad decisions simply because they don’t have much information. It’s hard for kids whose riskiest experiences have been in video games to make mature judgements about levels of difficulty in real-world situations. Help your kids research the things they want to do so they can have realistic ideas about the danger levels, and also make choices they’ll enjoy.
  • Lay down some rules. From climbing to hiking to swimming to boating, all outdoor pursuits have standard rules and best practices. Make sure your kids know those rules. This is also a good time to reiterate family rules. Make sure teens understand that — just as you don’t tolerate drinking and driving — you won’t tolerate taking part in sports while judgement is impaired. You probably expect your teens to have a buddy along when they go to the movies, so make sure they know they should have a buddy along when they’re hiking.
  • Get the right gear. Crash pads for bouldering, helmets for biking, life jackets for boating — safety gear makes a difference. This is not the thing to skimp on. Come on into Uncle Sam’s with your kid and we’ll help you outfit your whole family for outdoor adventures.

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