TV-Free ideas for teens

Pro and Con: What Do You Think? Make a family game of discussing a special issue--for example, "Teenagers should be allowed to vote," or "There should never be any homework." Ask your youngsters to think of all the reasons they can to support their views. Then, ask them to think of reasons against their views. Which views are most convincing? For variety, assign family members to teams and have teams prepare their arguments pro and con.

How Much Does It Cost? Help your children understand living costs by discussing household expenses with them. For example, make a list of monthly bills -- heat, electricity, telephone, mortgage or rent. Fold the paper to hide the costs and ask your youngsters to guess the cost of each item. Unfold the paper. How do the estimates compare with the actual costs? Were they close? Living Within Our Means: Teach children who have allowances or regular spending money how to budget. Ask them to make a two-column list of expenses and income. Under expenses, they list what they expect to spend for movies, bus tokens, lunches, etc. Then, have your teens add all the expenses and subtract the total from the income. Ask them to think of ways to reduce their spending. If their income is more than their expenses, talk about a savings plan.

Take Turns Cooking/Reading: Have your child read a news story to you as you prepare dinner. Next day do the reverse -- he/she makes the meal while you read. It allows you both an opportunity to stay up on current events and to spend time together. You can also study the art of journalism together: discuss how a newspaper page is laid out; talk about how a news story is designed to answer who, where, what, why and how; examine the editorial page and underline fact from opinion; review the movie section and figure out what is playing in your area; discuss advertisements, living section, food section or any other favorite feature.


Follow the News: As a family, choose an important news event to follow for a day or two. Ask each person to find as much information on the topic as possible--read newspapers and listen to the radio. Then talk about what everyone learned.

Discuss Advertisements: Discuss newspaper and magazine ads. What is the main point of the ad? What details does it use to communicate its message? For example, a strong, handsome man holding a soft drink in an expensive car with a beautiful woman at his side is telling us something about the soft drink.

Make a family tree: Talk about your past and help your child build a picture of his/her roots. Make a project with pen and paper or using computer software. Commit to really working on it together, calling or writing family members.

Make a Journal: Get two notebooks -- one for yourself and one for your child. Take a few minutes each day to sit together but to write quietly about what happened during the day, feelings, moods, plans for the upcoming week. At the end of the week, instead of using the set-aside time for writing, use it to read aloud to each can read parts of the journal you wish to share. Consider even looking up different types of poetry and try your hand at one poem per week.

Have Fun Outdoors

Take a family walk or hike. Ride bikes. Play basketball, tennis or other sport. Swim.

Music and Kids

Music may play an important part of all our lives. For your teen, it maybe crucial. Use the opportunity to discuss your child's music tastes. Ask her what her favorite bands, groups or lyrics might be. Consider listening to her music. Ask questions like which music she likes to listen to at parties versus music she likes to mellow out to.


Helping Out Around the House

Teen-agers are still members of the family; it is great if you can instill a sense of family responsibility with various household chores. Perhaps, they can take one night a week that they are responsible for making a family dinner. They can be responsible for keeping their own room neat, removing sheets weekly and making their bed. Other chores, whether for allowance or not, may include cleaning bathrooms, sweeping, vaccumming, organizing linen closets, cleaning dishes, etc.

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