Beyond Embarrassment: Family Activities with Teens

Why am I so embarrassing? It appears that seemingly overnight my clothes are now hideous, my parenting remarks are irritating, and anything I do is just plain embarrassing.

If this is the worst part of teen angst we experience, I’ll be that source of awkwardness. It’s my job, right?

But, no matter what, I am set on making the most of the time left with most of us still living in the same house. And that means family activities.

I’m not asking them to hold hands on a walk and swing them high, although I did try that recently. But what can we do together that everyone will like?

Here’s some ideas (not guaranteed to be embarrassment-free) of what we’ve done or will be doing together this summer with our teens:

Get Outside. Summer is the one time of year when we can actually be outside in Minnesota. We can’t waste it inside. We instituted a get-outside-for-an-hour-a-day rule. Okay, that means that sometimes I had to join them, but at least it worked.

I played kickball for the first time since recess on the fields at Becky-David Elementary. Our friends invited us for a fun game of kickball in their neighborhood park, and kids against the parents certainly put the embarrassment on me, not them.

We played bocce ball in our backyard after dinner until the mosquitos started to attack just after sunset. It’s no cost if you have the set; low-cost if you don’t.

We hunted with our neighbors for the town medallion. That may be over, but a quest can be easily replicated with geocaching.

We unintentionally turned a bike ride into a high adventure in a local park reserve. We veered off the road on our mountain bikes onto a rough hiking trail. Although a later trip to the real mountain bike trail was better, the adventure part of it came in pulling together to get back home safely.

Camping and bonfires can be quick overnighter. And if you don’t have the time to go very far, you can cheat and pitch the tent indoors. Smore’s are great in a toaster oven.

Be a Tourist. This is our first summer in Minneapolis instead of Up North by the pines and trees. It took a lot of arm twisting, but my kids agreed to several field trips into the city.

We found the old streetcar on Lake Harriet and took a ride. Add a picnic and a walk around Lake Calhoun to people watch, and you can almost overcome the self-conscious remarks, that is until you pull out a camera. That’s where they drew the line.

We were so caught up in the homemade flavors of ice cream from Pumphouse Creamery that we didn’t make it to the paddle boats before they closed at sunset. But Centennial Lakes in Edina is a great place to play lawn games, mazes, and miniature golf, and talk a walk with something fun to look at.  I may have convinced my son to come back with a date.

Still to come this summer: Pride and Prejudice at the Guthrie, a Minnesota Twins Game, and for the first time, the State Fair.

Anything to get to know each other. One of the best parts about kids growing up is getting to know them as people. Family time that includes any interaction like this is a plus for allowing them to forget their embarrassment and see you as a real person, too.

We started our days of community service together back at Brainerd’s Senior Center Donut Days. Now, Kirsten and I water the flowers three days a week at the St. Michael City Center. Those walks to water and the give and take on the responsibilities once we get there mean hours of talk time.

Errands like Costco trips and back-to-school shopping are much better than when my kids were little. Shopping is actually a fun activity when it happens one-on-one.  And it doesn’t hurt when your son buys you a shirt at Old Navy, just because.

We welcome home our oldest daughter for our final week of summer. And I can’t wait. Even though she’s in her last year of her teens, finished with her first year of college and working away from home this summer, I found that I’m less embarrassing in her life than I used to be.

“I’m so ready to come home,” she says impatiently as she waits for her job to end and her short break to begin.

This tells me that the embarrassment stage is just a stage. However they react now, don’t overreact.

There is hope; they will grow out of it. And we can wait for that.


  1. Rebecca
    Aug 24, 2013

    Oh, I dread this stage.

  2. Camille
    Aug 26, 2013

    I’m so glad you all get a chance to have Elena back home for a bit. Enjoy! All these different phases of life – they make for great journal entries. I’m about to start a new phase myself. Mixed emotions.

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