Bucket List Ideas for Teens

Work together with your teen to create memorable and meaningful activities

Originally Published: 
A teen at a desk writing in notebooks to plan an activity

Few things are more frustrating for parents than putting effort into planning bucket list adventures only to be greeted by teenage indifference. But it’s teen nature for tastes and preferences to change — sometimes dramatically — in the span of months. That means big ideas from parents can easily be met with a kind of “you-don’t-get-me” skepticism. So what if you worked together to come up with bucket list ideas for your teen?

Why a Teen Bucket List?

According to licensed marriage family therapist and professional clinical counselor Chisato Hotta, DSW, making a bucket list with your teen is conducive to bonding in a handful of ways.”It can help you and your teenager understand each other better, it can facilitate conversation, and it can help them learn how to set goals,” she says.

Also, the planning process is a great way to model some of the executive functioning skills that teenagers will need as they head into adulthood. Walking them through the process from brainstorm to execution to reflection allows them to see how much thought goes into multi-factor decision making.

But successful collaboration requires listening, flexibility, and patience on parent’s part. “Our views may be different from our children’s views. Even though they may be big physically, they still have a lot of growing to do,” says Hotta. “Sometimes adults can forget that and can become frustrated, which will detract from the bonding.”

What Does a Bucket List Activity Look Like ?

Bucket lists don’t have to be grandiose experiences that you want to have before you die. They can include trips, projects, conversations, or anything else you want to do before whatever arbitrary time you choose. The first step is to ask your kid some questions to get you both dreaming.

Building Teen Bucket List Ideas

Dr. Hota suggests starting by asking some basic, but important questions:

  • What are foods would you like to try for the first time?
  • What are things you want to say to loved ones before the year ends?
  • What sights do you want to see one day?
  • If money was no issue, what kind of things would you like to experience?
  • What would you like to accomplish before graduating high school?
  • What would be an adventure that you want to go on?

“It depends on what your goals are,” Hota says. “Do we want to help them dream, or do we want it to be a little more realistic?”

Dr. Hota also notes that parents will need to decide when to introduce parameters such as timeline and budget into the conversation. “There are no hard and fast rules,” she says. “Maybe one of the parameters can even be coming up with a bucket list for the family, and not just for the teen.”

However you decide to go about it, remember this is a planned negotiation. Be ready to listen, collaborate and compromise on your road to productive and meaningful fun.

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