What are your kids doing when they’re not doing homework, chores, practicing their instrument or texting their friends? No, really? Are they reading food blogs for the next recipe they want to mess up the kitchen with? Have their nose buried in a book? Putting the last digit in a Sudoku puzzle? Knitting? Sewing steampunk style clothing for a cos-play event? Coloring? Drawing Manga? Meeting up with friends on World of Warcraft? Puttering in the garden? Cruising Pinterest for homemade lip balm recipes?
Congratulations! If they’re doing any of the above, they have a hobby.
It may seem as though hobbies don’t have any use in a teenager’s busy schedule, but research has shown having a hobby can benefit anyone in any stage of their life.
Having a hobby can lower blood pressure.
Amusing Artist has inherited high blood pressure – and you’d be surprised how many kids have high blood pressure – it’s not just the affliction of the middle aged overworked man any more.
Crafting something releases dopamine, a natural anti-depressant.
Teenagers have higher rates than ever of depression these days, so anything to combat that can’t hurt.
Creating something gives them a feeling of accomplishment.
Too often these days, kids are expected to get good grades and excel in other ways, and instead of a sense of accomplishment when they achieve get an A or score a goal or win a spot on the district orchestra, they simply feel as though they’ve made expectations. There are no expectations for them with a hobby – any picture they drew, batch of cupcakes they made, or Minecraft world they created is a bonus way of feeling they can follow a project, no matter how small, from start to finish and be creative.
Hobbies, particularly creative ones, can make us better problem solvers at school and work.
Research has shown better cognitive and work performance in people with a hobby – and businesses and colleges are picking up on this fact.
Hobbies create community.
If you’re worried that your teenager doesn’t have enough friends at school, look to a hobby for them to find their place. If they’re a book lover, they can find book blogs or podcasts, or post fan fiction they’ve written. A Minecraft fanatic? They can create a blog or YouTube channel with tips or screenshots of their creations. They’re obsessed with reading or drawing Manga? There is an explosion of websites where they can find their people.
There is a point at which something your child is passionate about could become something like a job – that is most likely going to happen during the teen years, especially when they are pressured to choose a college, a major, and a profession. (We put way too much emphasis on this stuff too early, in my opinion.) Ironically, since Song and Dance wants to be a musical theatre major, she often destresses by drawing or playing World of Warcraft – two things she doesn’t do in school that won’t help her get into college – which is exactly what we’re looking for. She also used to play competitive soccer, but when her schedule didn’t allow for being on a team, soccer became a hobby. An unexpected bout of fair weather will find her kicking a ball with her boyfriend or sister in the back yard.
Amusing Artist draws all the time, and despite being only 13, has plans to be an art major of some sort, so her hobbies are currently baking, computer games, creating fantastical things out of Legos, and helping with set design and stage crew for her schools drama club. Yes, her hobby is her sister’s passion, and vice-versa, but that’s fine. They each know that the person with the ‘passion’ is going to be slightly better at whatever it is they do, and they do it for different reasons. This is just one more opportunity for them to learn that life isn’t one big competition. In the type A, success obsessed area of the country we live in, that’s a vital lesson to learn if they are ever going to be truly happy.