Teens and Play

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My oldest son is 17. (How can I have a 17 year old?  I met my husband when I was 17!)

Play looks a lot different for him as a teen than it did when he was elementary age. For my son, it has looked very much like being an adult.

At 15 he wanted to build his own computer. It was a huge risk for him to buy expensive parts and take on such a daunting task but he spent hours researching the process and then used his own money to do it. It was very hard for me to watch him take a huge risk with his money. But I supported him in every way I could. The parts began arriving and he was so excited. When the final part was delivered by UPS he spread it all out in his room and set to work.

Teens and Play

It, not surprisingly, turned out to be a wonderful experience. He learned many things about planning, preparing and actually doing. He worked through a few problems because things rarely go exactly as planned. Then he learned how to install and use Linux operating system because he was out of money and couldn’t buy another one. This was a very positive experience for him and for me, as well. I learned to give him room to take a risk and encouraged him to search for the help when he needed it (because I certainly could not tell him anything about building a computer!) I learned to have confidence in his decision making.

His most recent risk has been taking on screen printing. He invested a big chunk of money and purchased all the equipment needed to screen print t-shirts and other things.

Teens and Play

After some practice, he accepted his first order for 16 shirts for a family trip. With a little stress on my part (it was our family!) he got it done.

Photo credit: Malia Grubbs

This venture is going to stretch him in different ways because he needs to design and sell. He is a quiet person so putting himself out there to talk to people is going to be a big challenge for him. But he already has a few potential customers and is working on design ideas now.

I am thrilled that he has taken on these risky ventures because he has learned so much from them.  As his mom, I’m so glad I supported him (after some convincing on his part – when will I learn to trust from the start?!) and I’m overwhelmingly proud of his can-do attitude!

“Only children believe they’re capable of everything.
They’re trusting and fearless; they believe in their own power and get exactly what they want.” – Paulo Coelho

I am confident that this type of play – following his curiosity – is helping prepare him for adulthood while teaching him decision making, budgeting, working towards a goal and so many other things.

As your kids approach the teen years you need to expect a shift (or three) in how they “play.”  Expect and support them when they want to take on risks.  I am not talking about crazy death defying stunts or things that have a high likelihood of causing death. Taking calculated risks while they still have the safety net of their parents to guide them can be an amazing growth and learning experience. Setbacks and failures are all part of the process and so much learning can come from those. Your teens have been looking forward to being adults all of their lives – YOU can help them walk into adulthood with confidence and grace!

Next up?  The 14 year old is now waiting on the last part to arrive for the computer he plans to build.


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