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Friday, October 19, 2007

Parenting in the Outdoors

If you are a regular reader of this paper, you may remember that my family and I rode recumbent tricycles across the United States two years ago. There were many reasons for the trip: family bonding before I headed to Iraq, education, adventure, and to serve as inspiration to other families.
My wife and I speak to lots of parents and parent groups helping them to learn to use the outdoors as a parenting tool; please contact us if you know of a group that would benefit from such a talk. Three reasons outdoor adventures are such a powerful tool are:
· the adventure is scalable – you can start small when your kids are small and go bigger, faster and longer as your kids get bigger and your expertise increases
· you can incorporate activities your family already likes to do
· the adventure facilitates, rather than interfering with talking to your kids- sports for example are great, but even if you are your kid’s coach you are coaching and they are playing, you aren’t talking
The first step in having fun, safe and life changing family adventures is for you (and your spouse) to determine your goals. Are you looking to improve behavior and grades or do you want to facilitate child development and foster family closeness? Next, sit down with the entire family and determine your family’s interests- do they want to ski, rock climb, white water raft, or something totally new? Then just you and your spouse get back together to determine your family’s capability in both time and money.
There is an almost endless supply of resources for parents to help them get into the outdoors, the first of them being the great Northwest where we are all lucky enough to live. Our area provides the opportunity for year round adventures. There are local Boy Scout troops, guide services and gear companies all of whom can provide contacts and instruction.
Speaking of instruction, if you are unsure of your skills go take lessons; not only will your family have more fun and be safer but you will look cool when you teach them what you learned. They also will provide lots of advice and can actually save money in avoiding false starts and adventures gone awry. Many times lessons are free or very inexpensive.
I am not suggesting that money is not important, however, beyond basic expenses such as food, shelter and education costs, your time is far more important to your family than your money is; so make a renewed effort to spend more time with your family, doing activities that will pay huge dividends in terms of family closeness and opportunities for life lessons. Author and speaker Og Mandino once asked, “All the gold in the world cannot buy a dying man one more breath. So, what does that make today worth?" Please give your family something more precious than money; each other in a loving, fun activity they will remember forever.

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