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Jaime-Lee Gardner
072 171 1979

Louise Martin
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Teenagers are people too

How to make residential estates teenager-friendly

By Ania Szmyd-Potapczuk

, |

Teenagers are people too

How to make residential estates teenager-friendly

By Ania Szmyd-Potapczuk

, |

Teenagers have distinct needs, and making estates teen-friendly can be challenging, but it is so worth it. By providing a safe space for their entertainment and development, estate managers can harness teenage energy and drive as a force for good.

Remember when you were a teenager?

Adolescence doesn’t encompass only physical changes, but mental ones as well. It’s a challenging time for everyone involved, but there are ways to make both parents and teens more comfortable in their living space.

According to a well-respected Cape Town psychiatrist, teens need a sense of belonging, whether to a group of friends, or to a cause. This sense of belonging can be encouraged by having a group space that’s attractive enough to lure teenagers out of their bedrooms.

Social interaction with their peers offers many benefits for teens. Not only does it give them a safe space to vent their concerns, but it can also keep them from engaging in reckless and unsafe behaviour. Many teenagers are also very socially conscious, and most are happy to engage in progressive behaviour that benefits the entire community and society at large.


A space of their own

The simplest way for an estate to foster a sense of community is to offer teenagers their own dedicated space. It should be a space that belongs exclusively to the group, where they get to control the decorations and furnishings. Adults tend to have an inaccurate sense of what’s trending with teens, so allowing the teen group to control the space allows for a more personalised setting.

Of course, an empty space will quickly become boring, so it’s vital to provide them with something to do. Apart from world-class Wi-Fi – a no-brainer – this space should accommodate a wide variety of tastes. Some kids enjoy just hanging out with friends, while others prefer to do something a bit more active. Consider adding a ping-pong table and other casual activities to the space.

Digital gaming

Over 40% of teen boys and 20% of teen girls spend some time gaming almost every day, so it may be worth providing PC and console access – or just great Wi-Fi – to cater for co-operative multiplayer games, such as World of Warcraft and Final Fantasy XIV, that require teamwork and communication to work through some of the harder game content. Sitting in the same room allows players to plan out their strategies, so, while – yes – it does involve vast amounts of screen time, it also requires real interpersonal communication and negotiation.

Tabletop gaming

Tabletop gaming is rapidly becoming more popular with teens and – as it involves moving away from the digital space and taking part in real-life games instead – also with their parents. As well as role-playing games such as D&D and war gaming, tabletop gaming includes retro board games like chess and backgammon, which your grandparents might recognise, and also some more esoteric and geeky options such as the obscure Japanese Go, and the seriously retro Mahjong.

Board games are excellent at teaching language skills and sharpening focus, and many higher-end games can challenge even the smartest teen – without a screen. (Chess is as popular with brainiac teens as it’s ever been.) Games can be divided into competitive games, where players compete to win, or cooperative games, where players team up to beat the game itself. Since many have complex rules, they’re a great way to teach abstract and critical thinking, and games like Pictionary, 30 Seconds and Balderdash encourage lateral thinking and concise communication – and also absolute hilarity and almost hysterical laughter.

The more nerdy tabletop war games can also help develop secondary skills such as handiwork and arts and crafts. Warhammer, for example, is played with physical models that players can paint and decorate, on a table on which players have to create their own terrain. Playing at a communal clubhouse allows teenagers to share and exchange armies and terrain, fostering a feeling of mutual ownership and cooperation – and helps to reserve the dining room table at home for meals.

Skate park

If your estate has the money and space, a skate park can be the ultimate draw for teenagers and adults alike. There are many myths surrounding skate parks, but the truth is that they provide a safe space for teenagers to thrive.

You could even involve teens in the construction and development of the skate park. In New York, one of the most popular skate parks is maintained and administered by the skaters, most of whom are teenagers from the nearby neighbourhoods. Allowing adolescents to express their ideas – and have them taken seriously – can lower drug and alcohol abuse, and foster a sense of responsibility.

Skate parks provide a safe environment for skaters. Most skateboarding accidents happen outside of skate parks, either due to collisions with pedestrians or vehicles, or due to falls on uneven surfaces.

While many people may not consider skateboarding to be a ‘legitimate’ sport, like rugby or cricket, it offers significant health benefits. It’s an excellent cardio workout that engages most muscle groups in the body. Learning to skate can be challenging, and mastering the skateboard can be an enriching experience.

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