We recently bought a cottage and my 16-year-old stepdaughter hates going up. We tried to bring her friends up with her but they were still bored—the highlight of the weekend for the girls was finding reception on their cell phones. Do you have any suggestions on how to entertain 16-year-old girls? I’m a first-time cottager and step-mom and am pretty clueless as to what to do.
—Shari Dame

Depending on what your teenager is like, this can be a tough one. Our digital director, Sue Haas, says the solution is finding some teenage boys.

Don’t want to do that? We understand. Here are some suggestions from Myléne Tomkin, a longtime cottager and Cottage Life employee.

These ideas can apply to all teenagers.

  • Encourage her to bring friends.
  • If she’ll be spending a lot of weekends at the cottage or even the entire summer, encourage her to get a job on the lake. I worked in the general store at the marina, pumping gas and driving the water taxi. Did I ever make a lot of friends fast!  It was the best way to get to know everybody on the lake. And as soon as you know people, you’re getting invited to go waterskiing, to parties and bonfires, to the regatta, etc.
  • Try hosting a party. It could be something simple, like inviting people over mid-afternoon, providing nibblies and bevvies, and organizing a couple of activities like volleyball or horseshoes. You, the newbies, get to meet adults and teenagers alike and the parents get to see who their kids are going to be hanging out with.
  • If your new cottage was a resale, perhaps there’s some leftover stuff you’d like to get rid of. Have a dock sale! Your teenager can help out, meet a ton of people, and make a little cash on the side.
  • Try a compromise. Ask her to go to the cottage every other weekend or book a few weekends for her to come up throughout the season. When you’re 16, it can be pretty tough leaving your social life every weekend to go to a place where you have yet to make any friends.
  • As tough as this may be, ask her to toss the cell phone and reconnect with the family for a few days. Isn’t that why we spend time at our cottages? If she always has the distraction of a cell phone, iPad, etc. she won’t get “out there” and learn to enjoy the cottage. Having her create her own fun with benefit her in the long run. She might sulk at first, but a little pain is worth the gain.

To all the other parents out there: How have you entertained teenagers at the cottage? Share your ideas in the comments.