As parents, the big responsibility and challenge of helping your children discover their passion, is sometimes overlooked. Some may question whether they should step in or step back – Should my child be figuring this out on his or her own? And if not, is there a way to successfully guide your child to discovering their natural gift, without overwhelming them?
Each child is born with innate strengths and abilities which may be obvious for some, while others may take a bit longer to figure out. But by connecting the dots, through relationship and observation, you are able to pick up exactly what drives your child and where his or her skills may lie. Through an investment of ample time and effort, you are able to help your child unearth their passion and unlock their potential in a positive way.
Here are five simple steps to help you do that:
Strengths vs. Interests
Learn to draw the fine line between interests and strengths. Your child’s interest in a particular career could be spurred on by a current trend rather than an actual passion. (e.g. Does she really have the desire to be a fashion editor or is it something that her friends have been obsessing over?) Interests are fleeting, but skill and natural ability can be harnessed and developed. Focusing on developing their strengths, rather than correcting their weaknesses, is a key component when trying to determine your child’s passion, according to Strength’s Explorer Test developer, Dr Shane Lopez. Take note of what your child shows strength in, and help to foster a spirit of excellence in that area. Keep track of things that hold your younger child’s attention for long periods and activity that easily unlocks their confidence. Keep a journal and make notes of school interests, performance and behaviour patterns and activities that draw the best out of your child.
Dare to Dream
Daring to dream with your children means quietening your desires to find out what theirs are. Rather than pushing your child towards an interest or hobby that you may find fitting, pay attention and find out what drives them. Do they show natural ability in specific areas? Who is their role model? What type of gifts are they asking for, on special occasions? What type of activity excites them? Staying attuned to your child’s heartbeat will help you to better understand them and their passions. Keep an eye out for special quirks or oddities that may stand out. You are able to unearth more of your child’s natural nuances through expressive role play, creative games and encouraging their use of imagination. Not only does imaginative play encourage a cognitive response to real life situations, it also helps to nurture the creative within. By dreaming with your children, you create a fun and safe way for them to explore the possibilities of their calling. So keep interaction light, give them space to discover and allow them to share their wildest fantasies and life goals with you. All of this should give you a great indication as to what their natural aptitudes are and will eventually point out areas that they could begin to work on, in order to excel.
Communication is an important tool when trying to assess where your child’s passion lies. Encourage regular dialogue about their areas of interest. Allow them to lead the conversation and stop only to ask a few principal questions that will help them to explain themselves better. Open ended questions such as: “How does it make you feel?” and “Why does it excite you so much?” gives room for them to explore their own feelings towards a particular task or activity, and provides you with ample opportunity to listen and reflect quietly. In fact, your opinion is not needed, until asked. Use this time to build trust by reacting in a non-judgemental way.
Run with the Wind
Open your child up to a variety of experiences and skill sets by providing unique opportunities that could help them to explore unchartered waters. This could be something as basic as allowing them to help out in the kitchen, or around your office or it could mean taking day trips to visit places of interest. Allowing room for experimentation (yes, pay for that piano lesson) could create an opportune time for that hidden talent to blossom! Whether it be academics, sports, music or the arts, your child’s gift and talents can appear in any form. But for some, the road to discovery may take some active prodding and gentle coaxing. University of Nebraska psychology professor, Dr Lisa Crockett, explains that healthy kids are active and engaged. Extracurricular activity helps with early identity development. Through active exploration and extracurricular involvement, your child is able to get more information that would direct them towards finding their passion. Let them choose their preferences and allow them to formulate and express their opinion without your prompting. Once you’ve begun to uncover their passion, embolden them by providing tools, equipment and information that will add fuel to the fire.
Raise a Happy Child
Raising “star” children is less important than raising happy children. In her book, The Happy Kid Handbook (2015), adolescent psychotherapist Katie Hurley explains that passion does not mean following a singular pursuit; it occurs when enthusiasm is present. She encourages parents to “zoom out” and instead of pushing, rather allow their children to learn and seek interests and desires that naturally excite them and make them happy. In the pursuit of finding your child’s passion, take the time to observe and respond only to what spurs on their youthful joy, instead of plunging them into a race for the finish line. Many children have to deal with untimely anxiety as a result of unreasonable expectation put on them. The pressure to perform could not only stunt your child’s growth, but it can also create unhealthy comparisons between siblings and classmates. Hurley suggests that optimistic children are more teachable, confident and more willing to take risks. Happy children feel confident about their abilities and – when they are confident in their ability, they find their passion.