October 08, 2013 —

While my “day job” consists of writing about skiing and outdoor family adventures, my “24/7 job” consists of raising two amazing, teenage boys and shepherding them, with the help of my husband, their father, into adulthood.

In addition to being a mom and a writer, I’m also a worrier (maybe that just goes with the job of being a mom?).

Like most parents, I want the best, the absolute best, for my two sons. I want them to be safe, healthy and to make good decisions. I want them to avoid alcohol and drugs of any sort and I want them to make wise decisions about sexual activity.

Our family has always been very close. We share a strong passion for skiing, and our boys quickly learned that their parents were more fun on the mountain than their friends. In this aspect, we are truly blessed, for our boys enjoy spending time with us.

Still, I know we have made lots of mistakes and the path a teen is taking can change quickly due to one bad choice.

I don’t have all the answers, not by any stretch of the imagination. What I do have are some suggestions for parents on how to connect with your teen as well as how to keep them active and drug free. These ideas have worked for us, so far.

  1. Lead By Example. Your teen is much more likely to get up and out the door with a friend or a parent. Don’t just tell your teen to get outdoors. Instead, stay active and invite your teen to join in on outdoor adventures. When they don’t feel like going, go yourself, anyway. For active parents will have more active teens.
  2. Support Them in Their Adventures. If you don’t ride a bike or enjoy hiking or other activities your teen is interested in, help him or her plan an outing with friends and make sure it happens. All parents are busy, but if getting your teen off the couch and out the door is a priority, your support can make all the difference.
  3. Family Plans Matter.  Plan an adventure with your teen and commit your family to that date. Tell your friends, your spouse and your children “This is the day we’ve agreed upon. These plans aren’t changing.” Then make it happen.
  4. Teenage Trail Boss. Most teens have strong opinions about what they like to do.  Ask your teen to help you plan an adventure, maybe for a day, a weekend or even a week. Give your teen specific responsibilities, and if he or she has ideas about where to go or what to do, react enthusiastically and follow their lead.
  5. Just Listen. Adults and teens often look at outdoor activity differently. Frequently busy adults look at getting outdoors as exercise. For most kids and teens, it’s about having fun. In my experience, kids are more into the sights along the trail than burning calories. But what really matters most to them is getting your attention, sharing time with you and talking.

Whether you’re hiking, biking, kayaking or roasting marshmallows over a fire, being outdoors is a perfect time for your teen to open up and share their dreams and concerns with you. It’s also a great time for parents to open up the discussion to drug and medicine abuse and to share what their expectations are as it relates to these behaviors. So relax, have fun and enjoy the conversation along the way.

Kristen Lummis is a mom of two and author of The Brave Ski Mom. You can find her on Facebook and Twitter, too.