Finding our purpose and passion in life sounds like a great idea, but how we actually do that is a life-long challenge. As parents, we would like to see our children live life to the fullest and take advantage of the motivation and focus that come with acting on one’s interests.
Some people identify what feeds their inner soul at a young age. For instance, a young child dedicated to her love of acting may make it to Broadway by age 8. However, such focus is uncommon at such a young age and most kids don’t figure out what drives them until much later in life.
As adults, how can we help children find their path? Here are some suggestions:
• Offer many opportunities. After school classes, summer camps, art and dance schools, museums and libraries all offer kids chances to learn more about the things that interest them. Let your children try new classes, especially those that happen just once. Look for a spark that might grow after their first exposure and be sure to give opportunities to repeat activities of interest.
• Stand back and watch. Try not to be so overly enthusiastic about your child’s new interest. Let the child’s affection grow slowly, and don’t interfere at first. Often, when you show great enthusiasm and therefore expectations, your child will back away from the activity in reaction to the pressure. Instead, facilitate the activity as necessary, but be laid back and somewhat disinterested in the final outcome.
• Notice when your child says “yes”. This can help you identify both the activities that come easily to them and are pleasurable.
• Encourage time with friends. Kids learn new things from each other all the time. The path to their passion may lie in a tip from a friend.
• Be patient. Many adults are still searching for that certain thing that resonates with them. We shouldn’t expect our kids to know what their particular interest is by any certain time.
• Don’t over schedule kids. Leave plenty of unstructured open-ended time for your kids to get “bored”. In those moments, something unexpected may catch their eye and send them in the direction of a fulfilling future.
Kate Fox is the director of Free Spirit Nature Camp and the new Birch School, a child-centered learning community and home school resource center in Rock Tavern. She can be reached at 361-2267 or firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information, visit TheBirchSchool.org.