teens

In so many ways, my children are as different as night and day.

They have different personalities, different temperaments and even different interests. It is clear that, while they have both been given similar opportunities, they’ve each responded differently to those opportunities.

For example, unlike my 12 year-old, my 14 year-old hasn’t always been so quick to get involved in sports or other activities. At times, it’s taken a little coaxing. Now that she’s in high school, it’s actually gotten to the point where she would almost rather do nothing at all.

It started this past spring when she got involved with her first theater production. She decided she no longer had the time or the desire to continue with her participation in Girl Scouts. It had lost its appeal some time ago, and as much as she enjoyed the company, it had quickly become an activity she loathed.

Then, over the summer, her list became nearly nonexistent. After a very difficult first practice, she gave up on making soccer a high school priority. She was convinced her skill level was nowhere near that of her peers, and refused to continue to practice with them. We also tried volunteering at the Midlands Humane Society, but efforts were halted when, shortly after signing up, we discovered they have an requirement for volunteers. So she can't help with the animals for at least another two years.

We were at a loss. She suddenly had nothing to do, and although I didn’t mind the thought of a lighter schedule, I wasn’t thrilled with a complete lack of involvement either – especially considering her chosen alternative. I noticed that, as her activity list gradually shortened, the time she spent staring at her phone was picking up at a rapid pace.

So, rather than allowing this to continue, I opted for a parental intervention. I know I can’t force her to participate in an activity in which she has no interest, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t ways to find activities she would enjoy. I just knew it would be necessary to think outside the box a little bit.

We started with her school first. As a freshman, her list is somewhat shorter than that of upperclassmen, but I knew there would still be plenty of clubs for her to join. She immediately gravitated toward the book club. I was a little surprised at that at first. Her interest in reading is sporadic, at best, but if she thinks she will enjoy it, who am I to tell her no?

We also decided to check around at other opportunities for volunteering. She enjoys working with animals, so I looked into what the zoo offered. Unfortunately, we just missed the application deadline, but I sent a quick email anyway to the program administrators just to be sure. Even if this year doesn’t work out, it definitely gives us an idea for the future.

I also encouraged her to open up her mind and step outside of her comfort zone. There are plenty of sports and activities she’s never considered, and she might actually enjoy something if she gave it a chance. Though scary at first, the decision to try something new isn’t something she’ll soon regret. It can be exhilarating, exciting and open her to interests she never knew existed.

Of course, if that doesn’t work, it always helps to encourage a friend to try out as well. This tip was extremely successful when she tried out for the Young Playwrights Festival at The Rose Theater this past spring. She was nervous to audition alone, but after convincing her best friend to audition with her, she instantly became more comfortable.

Even if she’s never like her sister and doesn’t join every club or play every sport, it’s important to pursue the few interests she does have – and maybe try a new one or two along the way.

She might not have to do everything, but she has to do something.

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Amanda Smith, a working mom of two children, writes weekly for momaha.com. Read more from Amanda »

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