What in the World to Do with a Teenager? | The Source Weekly - Bend, Oregon

What in the World to Do with a Teenager?

In an outdoor-adventure wonderland such as Bend, some tips for getting teens on board

The transition has hit. As of this summer I officially have two teenagers living at home. As my daughters become young adults, the thought of hiking or biking any significant distance immediately elicits resistance and strong complaints from both of them.

One would assume that growing up in Bend would automatically instill an appreciation and love for all things nature. Isn't this a requirement for living here?

click to enlarge What in the World to Do with a Teenager?
Joshua Savage
A teen visitor entices the company of Peterson's Rock Garden peacock.

Instead, they prefer to get dropped off at the Old Mill for a couple of hours to buy overpriced coffee or boba tea and inundate themselves with the strong scents of Bath and Body Works. Recently, they went to see "Barbie" and explained to me how it wasn't a kid's film, but rather a portrayal of female empowerment.

Do I know these kids?

As the father of two daughters, I'm all about girl power. I'm beyond delighted to see them developing their own interests and becoming independent, intelligent young ladies. Still, though barely in the rear-view mirror, I already miss our hikes when building fairy houses and scavenger hunts on the trails were the norm.

Can anyone relate?

Of course, they can! In fact, I have seen more than a few posts from frustrated parents this summer on my Facebook group, 100 Things to Do in Bend, begging questions like,

"Where can my 13-year-old volunteer?" "Where can my 14-year-old get a job?" And literally, "My kid needs activities but doesn't like hiking. Recommendations, please!"

For many of us, summer seems to be a mad struggle to keep our kids busy and away from screens. Truthfully, it's not our responsibility to always keep them occupied. Boredom can be a good thing, but at their age, without a license and still dependent on parents, we often have to give them a push and adjust our expectations.

Luckily, Central Oregon has no shortage of outdoor alternatives to those "strenuous activities" that our kids bemoan. We are surrounded with so much to do — most of it completely free if we know where to look.

I find two key things to be the biggest incentives. Simplicity and bringing a friend. A trip to one of the many parks around Bend is about as easy as it gets. Each one has its own vibe with different activities — basketball, tennis, skateparks, disc golf, dog parks for furry friends and the list goes on. The newest park, Alpenglow, boasts climbing walls. Farewell Bend, with its small beach, and Riverbend Park are two very popular spots for teens. Lots of open space, and it's common to see kids their age hanging out, reading, playing Frisbee or relaxing on the lush green grass.

click to enlarge What in the World to Do with a Teenager?
Joshua Savage

Speaking of a beach, swimming areas at Shevlin or Tumalo State Park are ideal for a quick dip on a hot day. They are usually less crowded, as are La Pine State Park or at the Slough Day Use Area, perfect spots for paddleboarding, kayaking, or a family picnic. In fact, there are countless spots to throw down a blanket and soak up some sun. Best to find some shade during the warmer days.

Do you have nightmares of being surrounded by orange rafts and obnoxious drunks every time your child mentions a float through the Old Mill? Try a more relaxed, scenic, and longer float near Sunriver. The put-in is located on South Century Drive, with an exit at Harper Bridge. Shh.

Peterson's Rock Garden in Redmond recently reopened to the public. A fascinating location for all ages, my daughters were intrigued with the peacocks roaming the site. Collecting stones wherever he went, Rasmus Peterson used them to create replicas of the Statue of Liberty, the Capitol Building, bridges over lily-padded ponds and other meticulously designed structures in his garden. A must-visit in my opinion; afterward, I always have grand ideas of creating something similar at home.

Finally, I mentioned how my daughters like to shop. Simply meandering through local markets at Northwest Crossing or downtown appeases their craving. They don't need to spend a fortune and are usually satisfied with frozen treats from Rawmona's Kitchen or Bonta Gelato. Plus, they are outside taking in some vitamin D, getting their steps in, noticing which veggies are in season and admiring creative work by local artists.

Sure, I hope my daughters will come back around in the future (the sooner, the better) and be hyped for those long treks. Parents of older teens and young adults assure me they will. Maybe they won't be using those big imaginations to build fairy houses with sticks and such, but instead our family will be overnighting or thru-hiking the Pacific Crest Trail. In the meantime, I'll encourage their interests and do what I can to get them (and myself) outside as much as possible.

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