Why nature for teens?
I live in a place where winter means cold and wet…I mean really wet. Under COVID-19 restrictions, holiday season has increased my teenage children’s screen time, as well as my concern to their health.
What I see is a toxic cycle: smart phone to X-box, then straight to the TV. How can I facilitate a change?
As a nature lover, I couldn’t think of anything better than connecting to nature. Unfortunately, convincing them to do so is quite challenging.
In this article, I will talk about 6 benefits of nature for teens.
What are the 6 benefits of nature for teens?
Benefit #1: Reduce screen time
First of all, the obvious benefit of going for a hike is reducing screen time. According to an article, teenagers on average spend 7 hours and 22min a day on screens.
During the holiday season, my children can’t leave their devices alone, so I’m not surprised.This gives me more reasons to support teens to unplug from tech and plug into nature.
As I mentioned earlier, it’s not easy to convince teens. But once you have, they may see the benefit over time. Connecting with nature is certainly one of the best ways to reduce screen time!
Benefit #2: Nature for teens supports their mental health
Doesn’t the picture above make you relaxed instantly? As a Japanese person, I believe in forest bathing. Like adults, teenagers have invisible pressures.
For instance, brand name clothes they buy just to fit in. As you can imagine, peer pressure in this age group can be quite stressful.
In nature, nobody judges them on what they do or wear. Additionally, sereneness encourages them to be who they are. And it is important for parents to create a safe place where children can express their emotions.
Being in nature certainly supports teens’ mental health.
Benefit #3: Increase family engagement
When I was in middle school, I felt distant from my parents. Both of them were working all day, so we didn’t do things together. Without a surprise, we became almost strangers.
From my own experiences, I wanted to make sure we (parents) are here for them whenever they need us.
The best way to build a strong family relationship is spending time together. While we are in nature, we have to look after each other, which increases family engagement. On top of that, we create memories together.
Benefit #4: Get physical exercise
Not only does being in nature provide us fresh air, but it also keeps us physically active. It requires a variety of body movements like walking, running, jumping, rock-climbing, swimming, etc. With the development of their body, teenagers need a sufficient amount of exercise to stay healthy.
For parents, this is a great opportunity where we can be good role models. Do we want our children to be active? Then let’s take action! It is easier said than done, but out children learn from us.
As you probably know, we are the biggest influence on our children. Additionally, it keeps you young, too! Physical exercise keeps the whole family healthy!
Benefit #5: Sparks curiosity & creativity
Since I gained my curiosity in nature, I believe spending time in nature is crucial. Like the pictures above, a mysterious cave invited teenagers to go in and investigate.
When they came out, we started talking about what they saw. As a result, the conversation expanded to types of bats, gold rush, what if we dig, will we find gold?
Even a simple thing can stimulate curiosity that facilitates rich learning opportunities.
With curiosity, creativity follows. With limited materials and many obstacles in nature (just like our life), it challenges us to be creative.
For instance, a huge muddle(muddy puddle) blocking your way. What would you do? I have seen creative solutions: put a log as a bridge, place rocks & stumps as stepping stones, lay some plants, etc. I have even seen my younger son using a stick to pole-vault over it!
Most definitely, nature enhances curiosity and creativity to a great amount.
Benefit #6: Nature for teens promotes gratitude & awareness
Many of us appreciate what nature provides us. Beautiful sounds, plants, sky, water, and views, there is always something we admire and are thankful for.
We also appreciate our healthy body, and others who you walk with. Simply spending time in nature may be something special for many.
When people spend time in nature, it requires awareness in situations even as simple as weather. We need to use all 5 senses to be fully aware of our surroundings. This is one of the life skills we want our children to gain. I am grateful for nature teaching us simply by existing.
As you can see, I recommend you to bring teens to get immersed in nature. Some hikes are challenging with uncertainties like getting lost. But they also represent our life. Under the pandemic, it is really important to support teens to stay healthy. Understanding the 6 benefits, it’s time to unplug from tech and plug into nature as a family.