The Importance of the Outdoors in Raising Children

One morning I posed a very simple question to my sons that resulted in some very interesting responses and lengthy conversation.

“What are your all-time favourite experiences / memories?”

Immediately their answers began to flow like a river in flood. Visits to theme parks, the beach, camping, and the first time ever riding a motor-bike. One’s memories would spark another’s. One common theme was that all of their favourite experiences involved the outdoors.

Another common theme was that I had been present. Perhaps if I hadn’t, my kids’ favourite memories may have been very different.

Introducing your son into the great outdoors is an essential part of his development, and you don’t have to be a hunter or extreme adventurer to lead him there. Simply provide him with terrain to explore, rivers to fish, and adventures to live and enjoy e.g. rafting and swimming. The outdoors will provide countless opportunities of calling forth daring and courage, and will undoubtedly provide the testing and challenging necessary to initiate him along his masculine journey.

When my eldest son Brandon turned 13, I invited him into a vision quest… a rite-of-passage… a journey of sorts with me by his side, together navigating through the obstacles a boy encounters as he makes his transition into young manhood.

One of our first experiences together was dubbed his “beloved son” weekend. I wanted him to know that I delighted in him and absolutely loved being with him.

The destination I decided upon was Jourama Falls… a series of waterfalls that cascade down the side of a mountain here in North Queensland. We would swim in a waterhole and check it’s depth before climbing up to the next waterhole above. We repeated this about four or five times before beginning our descent… leaping off the top of each waterfall into the waterhole below.

I knew we would have fun, but what I hadn’t counted on, perhaps naively, was that fear would present itself.

What an unexpected opportunity for Dad to dig deep into the soul of his son… to question his thought processes, and to guide and coach him. To play my part in helping him to examine and overcome his fears was priceless, and a memory that both he and I will treasure for a lifetime.

Another weekend that formed part of Brandon’s vision quest was dubbed his “community of men” weekend.

Four of my good friends and I invited Brandon into our community of men for the weekend, where we demonstrated how real men have fun. We went white-water rafting and we hiked to the summit of a mountain. Of course the white-water rafting was a blast, but my biggest shock came during the hike.

My son was a very capable long-distance runner, so I thought the hike for him would be just a stroll in the park. About one-third of our way in, Brandon stopped and stated that he was unable to continue. We were all able to speak into his life at that moment, reminding him that we all believed in his ability to push on and reach the summit, and that we would help him get there.

He pressed on and was the second of our party to reach the summit. We asked him if it had been worth it, and as he surveyed the 360 degree unobstructed views below him, he responded with a resounding “Yes”.

I warned him that there would be times in the future… at school and during marriage etc., when he would feel like quitting. I instructed him to remember this moment on the mountaintop… to remember the taste of accomplishing something he didn’t think he could.

I remain committed to my role as father of my four sons, committed to pursuing a deeper relationship with each of them, committed to providing them with a wide variety of outdoor experiences, committed to modelling authentic masculinity to them, and committed to one day leaving a legacy of four great, society-contributing men who will live on to offer even more to their families.

Be sure too to ask your children what their all-time favourite experiences / memories are. It will provide you with the clues you need to truly know your child’s heart.

For Dads who are also committed to their sons, please explore the ‘Fathering Adventures’ website at www.fatheringadventures.com.au.

Yours for getting our kids outdoors.

PS. Do you have any personal stories you would like to share? We would love to hear them. Please post in the comment section below.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *



Return to Blog