Stay at home ways to broaden interests
The teenage years should be a wonderful journey of discovery and personal growth, so don't let your teen miss out by focusing all their time exclusively on academic studies. They'll need to develop their character and personality, alongside expanding their knowledge, and this means trying new things to find out their likes and dislikes.
But trying new things can be scary, time-consuming and even expensive, so here are some easy ways for your teen to experiment with new ideas, without breaking the bank or investing lots of time. Who knows? It’s possible they may well find a true passion along the way.
Keep up-to-date on all things teen related with our fortnightly newsletter
Whatever it is your teen wants to do, they should find out more about it. Looking up one thing often acts as a springboard to another they hadn't yet thought of. If they start researching something and get bored along the way, chances are this is not for them, and they can change tack and pursue something they do enjoy instead.
There are lots of ways to research, and for more detailed research we'd recommend using different approaches, but the lazy starting point can't be beaten - just check the internet. Not sure what to research? Ideas include:
Hobbies that interest them
Celebrities they admire
Recipes/foods they'd like to try
Countries to visit
Subjects they might be interested in studying next
Industries where they might like to work
Jobs that seem interesting
Reading is a brilliant opportunity for your child to discover new interests and find out more about pretty much anything on the planet. If your child isn’t a great reader, no matter – they can listen to audio books instead. Here's our top five places to start:
All reading is useful - even if you don't really approve of the content! Magazines are a good way for teens to get interested in reading because the presentation is appealing and articles are short, which means they're not daunting. Look beyond celebrity magazines, to ones that cover hobbies and interests, current affairs, comedy, travel, teenage interest and wellbeing.
Not only is fiction a wonderful way to escape the stresses of everyday life, it will get them away from their screens too. Like most skills, practise improve performance, so it gets easier to read, understand content and retain information the more they do it. This will benefit them when reading non fiction too. Reading can also expand vocabulary and improve linguistic skills.
Are they a people person?
They might be interested in biographical literature. They could dip their toe in the water by reading some articles about their favourite idol, before moving on to a biography/autobiography. This will serve them well in interviews down the line, when they might be able to talk about someone they really like and admire and still sound substantive, because they are not focusing on mainstream information - they'll have discovered something unique outside of social media sources.
There are plenty of books written for teens with guidance and tips on how they can prepare for life ahead, specifically from a teenage perspective. These cover all manner of topics, such as how to
think positively or how to develop good working habits.
Exploring some of these will help them develop their own personal toolkit to cope with the challenges they are facing and prepare them for the future. It could spark an interest in psychology.
If their goal is to study a specific subject or business area, reading around this could give them an edge. For example, if your child wants to read business studies, there are thousands of business areas to research and this could feel overwhelming; so why not select either a type of business or business expert and find out how they became an expert and inspiration. Such as:
how One and Only (established in 2002) became one of the premier, highest rated resorts in some of the world’s most beautiful places;
how Harley Davidson started in a wooden shed as an engine to power a bicycle
how Zoom started as a day-dream to solve the problem of a long-distance relationship.
This approach should enable them to spend their time doing something they enjoy, and be able to connect it to a goal they have set themselves for the future.
Not every teenager loves to read or finds it easy, so podcasts/TED talks and audio books are a fabulous way to discover interesting themes and topics.
Podcasts are a relatively new media and very popular with teenagers. They’re also a great way to reduce screen time, because they’re all about listening, not looking. If your teen is hooked on their phone, it’s a good way for them to wind down before sleep, by dimming the lights, switching off the screen and simply listening in bed.
The length of podcasts vary significantly, some are short (say 15-20 minutes) others are feature length episodes; some are so long they are split into series; others are broadcast regularly as complete episodes with an overarching theme linking them together. There’s podcasts on virtually any topic or your teen can look up people they like and see if there are podcasts about them or featuring them.
Favourites for teens include:
Stuff you should know
The Socially Awkward
An absolute blessing if your child has a short attention span. Most Ted Talks are no more than 15 minutes long, covering diverse subject ranges from science to business to global issues and feature
some of the most eloquent, thought leaders of our times. It’s a great place for your child to develop their interests without a huge time commitment.
Search by topic, speaker, most viewed or length (some are as short as 6 minutes!). There’s also a wide variety of teen speakers, so great role models for your teen to identify with thought leaders of their own age. Among the top 10 most viewed TED talks are:
Do schools kill creativity ?– Sir Ken Robinson
Your body language may shape who you are – Amy Cuddy
How great leaders inspire action – Simon Sinek
The power of vulnerability – Brene Brown
How to speak so that people want to listen – Julian Treasure
It’s a good idea for your teen to be in touch with what's going on in the world and this will help widen their perspective outside their direct field of experience. They should keep an eye on the news to be aware of headline stories.
For teens with limited interest in current affairs, spending a couple of minutes each day capturing the highlights will probably give them just enough information to keep on top of subjects people are talking about. Hourly news bulletins on the radio, daily headline summaries on their phone or watching the first five or ten minutes of the evening news are quick ways to stay in touch.
News can cover a huge range of topics: what’s happening in the world – at home and internationally, sporting events, the environment, celebrities, popular television programmes, politics, tech and people interest. Even if your teen isn’t too interested in current affairs, there should be something featured regularly in the news that gets them interested and fired up to find out more.
You might get frustrated at the amount of time your teen spends online, but social media covers a wide range of subjects in bite-size chunks and can be a good way to inspire curiosity. Other people's interests and passions can fire up interest in your own teen. Help them benchmark social media for inspiration, and encourage them to seek further information from reliable, validated sources when they're sufficiently interested to find out more.
Help your teen find their own identity
If you’d like to know how your teen can build their character, develop skills, stand out from others and improve their chances of success at interviews, all while doing things they enjoy, read our suggestions in The Parents’ Guide to Standing out from the crowd. It includes sections on:
Self-development and increasing confidence;
Getting work experience (including virtual placements);
Benefits of research and how to take a different approach;
How different hobbies impact mental and physical health;
Which hobbies hone different transferrable skills
Recommendations for non-curricular online courses
We always love to hear from you, so do let us know if there are any subjects you’d like us to chat to you about. Stay safe and keep happy, Vanessa and Darius - email@example.com