Benefits of Family Camping with Struggling Teens

How can I convince my teen to go camping?


OutdoorsBackPackWe humans have long sought solace in the mountains, the woods, and in other natural spaces.


But, did you know that getting outside can help your teen deal with difficult social, emotional, and physical challenges?


In fact, new research shows that spending time in the great outdoors can have long-lasting benefits for people of all ages. For teens, in particular, regular outdoor recreation can help young people learn essential social and emotional skills that they can use to rise above any challenges that they might face.


Up next, we’ll discuss some of the latest research on the power of the outdoors to do wonders for struggling teens. We’ll even offer up some quick and simple ways to help your teenager get outside, so they can start taking advantage of the healing powers of the outdoors.


The Benefits Of Outdoor Recreation


Researchers have long understood that outdoor recreation provides a number of important benefits for our mental, physical, and emotional well-being. 


Indeed, a 2018 US-based study found that getting outside and hiking is particularly beneficial, not just for our physical health, but for our ability to handle challenging mental and emotional situations. Furthermore, a 2016 study from the University of Maryland even found that outdoor recreation can help individuals struggling with various mental health issues.


What about teenagers, you might ask?


Well, researchers from Poland and the Czech Republic found that adolescents who spent more time recreating outside through activities like cycling, skiing, and swimming, reported higher levels of well-being than those who didn’t. At the same time, a 2020 Canadian study also found a link between outdoor physical activity and social connectedness among young people.


Of course, everyone responds differently to spending time outdoors and it’s not a solution for all teens. But, the academic research strongly suggests that teens can gain a number of important emotional, physical, and mental benefits from venturing into the mountains.


How To Get Outside With Your Teen


Although there’s a clear link between teens’ mental, physical, and emotional well-being and time spent outside, these benefits are hard to come by if you’re struggling to find a way to introduce your teenager to the great outdoors.


To get you started, here are a few great ways to help your teen enjoy the wonders of the natural world:


1. Plan A Family Camping Trip


If you’re looking to help your teen get outside and if you want to spend more time together as a family, there’s nothing better than a family camping trip. 


A camping trip into the great outdoors without phones and other electronics can help everyone unplug, relax, and reconnect with nature. Getting away from the hustle and bustle of daily life on a camping trip can also give your teen a chance to enjoy hanging out with their family without the external peer pressures that might otherwise sour the experience.


If this is your first family camping trip, consider starting small. A quick overnight adventure to a local campground where there are trails, watersports, and other fun activities can be a great way to help a struggling teen unwind. 


Then, as everyone in your family gets more comfortable in the outdoors, you could plan a longer trip during school vacation. As an added bonus, you could let your teen choose the adventure destination and your activities to help them feel more of a sense of ownership over their experiences.


2. Set An Outdoor Adventure Goal


For teens that are lacking a sense of direction or for young people that are struggling to stay motivated at school or sports, helping them set an outdoor adventure goal might be a solid choice.


After organizing a few family day hikes or camping trips, you could encourage your teen to think of an outdoor-related goal that they’d like to achieve. For example, this could include hiking Mount Whitney—the tallest peak in the contiguous US—or it could be more of a local challenge to climb the 10 highest mountains in your state.


Achieving these sorts of goals usually requires a bit of training, pre-planning, and commitment. So they can be a perfect way to help your teen find purpose, meaning, and direction in their life, all while working toward something that’s fun and exciting.


3. Offer Kayaking, Skiing, Or Climbing Lessons


Although hiking and camping are popular pastimes, some teens have more of an eye for adventure. If you notice that your teen is interested in more technical pursuits like whitewater kayaking, skiing, or rock climbing, it could be worth investing in lessons with a qualified guiding service or outdoor education center.


Of course, these sorts of lessons can be pricey, so they’re not financially possible for everyone. But, if you’re able to do so, investing in a few lessons or even a week-long summer camp-style course could help encourage your teen’s interest in the outdoors. Plus, encouraging your teen’s interest in these sorts of activities could help your young adult find passion and motivation in their life. 


Many outdoor education centers also offer group lessons, so they can be a nice way for your teen to make like-minded friends from outside school. For teens that struggle to stay motivated or make friends in more of a formal education environment, these informal, fun classes can make all the difference.


4. Consider An Organized Expedition


OutdoorsTeensIf your teen is having difficulty with their self-confidence or their interpersonal skills, enrolling them on an organized outdoor education expedition might be a solid option.


Organized outdoor expeditions often take young people between the ages of 13 and 18 out into the wilderness for a few weeks to months at a time. These expeditions often focus on developing leadership and interpersonal skills as well as self-awareness, self-esteem, and communication strategies within a communal group setting in the outdoors.


Furthermore, these expeditions are a great way to set a teenager up with all of the skills they need to go out on their own future adventures. Indeed, they provide a nice mix of challenge and activity to help struggling teens find themselves and their passion in life through nature.


Do note, however, that teens usually get the most out of these organized expeditions when it’s something that they’re personally interested in. Therefore, it’s usually best not to force them into these experiences, but rather to encourage them to strongly consider signing up for one during school vacation.


Getting Your Teen Outside


Whether you’re interested in planning a family camping trip or you’re interested in enrolling your teen on an outdoor education expedition, there are plenty of great ways to help your young adult reap the benefits of being outside. The key is to find an activity and adventure style that works for your teen so they can make the most of their time in nature.




If you are struggling with your teenager’s behavior and have exhausted your local resources, learn more about how residential treatment can help your troubled teen through emotional growth. Contact us today for a free consultation.

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