Teens are bombarded by others’ expectations of them.
Their parents expect them to behave well, get good grades and do their chores.
Teachers expect them to keep quiet, listen attentively in class and get their homework in on time.
And their peers—oh, their peers!
Make no mistake: Teens are expected to dress, act, speak and be cool in ways only other teenagers can understand.
If they don’t do this? They risk being ridiculed or bullied in person and across social media.
Being a teenager is tougher than it’s ever been.
Help Your Teen Be Real
How can you help your teenager be genuine and discover what in life really matters to them?
Hobbies let teens be creative and explore new challenges in environments away from the pressures of home and school.
They are also especially helpful when transitioning from middle to high school (and even elementary to middle), since they provide connections and a sense of belonging during a time of big change.
What else? I checked in with my colleague Victoria Rosenberg, a licensed professional counselor and a Carilion Children’s mental health therapist.
She said a hobby gives teens the chance to:
- Take calculated risks
- Learn about themselves, including new strengths and weaknesses
- Explore healthy ways to connect with others—both peers and adults
- Expand their networks
- Develop skills
- Teach and learn from each other
“For teens who struggle to connect with their peers, a hobby can give them common ground to build a friendship on,” Victoria added.
Listen to Your Teen
The important thing about a hobby is that it needs to be something that the teen is actually interested in.
I know that when some parents hear “hobby,” they think of athletics. And that can work if a child is genuinely drawn to a sport. But don’t be that parent who is striving for glory by raising a star athlete when a child’s heart isn’t in it.
You’ll also find many choices for kids in addition to athletics. My 7th-grader son, for example, did robotics in middle school last year, and he made good friends with similar interests. It was so good for him.
Other parents urge their kids to take up a certain hobby to get into the college of their choice. Granted, this might help, but it might also create added stress and discourage social activities later.
The takeaway? Encourage teens to pursue the hobbies that excite them. But let them proceed at their own pace, and in their own way.
Tell them you’re there if they need anything.
Then—enjoy watching them grow!
Brooks Michael is an adolescent health educator for Carilion Clinic’s Adolescent and Student Health Services. Learn more about Brooks and her work with teens.
Are you concerned about your teen's cell phone use? Learn more at Teens and Cell Phones. What You Should Know.