Parents, help your preteens discover their talents, Dan Scott writesIn her book, Teach Your Children Well, child psychologist and Madeline Levine says that discovering one’s sense of self is the primary task of elementary children. By the time a child reaches middle school, they should have a “reliable sense of self and self-worth.”
However, as parents, we need to recognize and acknowledge the life-changing difference between helping our preteens follow our dreams for them and helping them discover their dreams for themselves. The dreams need to be theirs, not ours.
Here are six ways to walk your child through these pesky preteen years and come out OK on the other side.
Start with what you know (but don’t stay with what you know)
Your kids are not you. You may have been the captain of the cheer squad or quarterback for the football team, but your kids may not care about either of those things. It’s easy to push kids into what you enjoyed growing up, but that’s not necessarily what your kids will enjoy or even have aptitude for. Don’t force your kids to stick with something just because it was your dream back in the day.
Give them lots of experiences
Travel and give them a firsthand view of the world. Bring them to arts events – theatre, concerts, and dance – for them to see creativity on display. Explore art and science museums, because you never know what will inspire kids to imagine what their life could look like as adults.
Take extracurricular activities a season at a time
It’s easy to get swept up in the thrill of watching your kids succeed at something. Without warning, you’ve spent thousands of dollars on a hobby that may or may not be their dream. Don’t set unrealistic expectations for how long your kids might participate in an activity.
Keep the conversation going
Talk with your kids about how they’re feeling with regards to a particular activity. We can be so excited about an activity that we can’t see that our kids have moved on to the next thing. Generation Z is the most stressed out generation to date. Extracurricular activities are a major part of anxiety relief, so make sure they are having fun.
Surround your kids with leaders
If you want your kids to have dreams worth following, make sure they have leaders encouraging them in the right direction. Preteens are listening to all sorts of voices, from YouTube stars to social media influencers to their peers. Not all of those voices are promoting dreams you want for your kids. Be intentional about the adults who speak into their life. Be sure they’re saying what you’d say.
Say out loud what your kids are good at
When you see them doing something that could translate into a dream, tell them! For example, you may see your preteen helping a younger sibling with homework. They are able to explain it in a way that the sibling is able to understand. Tell your preteen, “I noticed the way you were able to explain that concept to your sister. Have you ever thought about being a teacher?”
Every child has a gift and a purpose. They need someone to clue them in to the fact that they are unique, that they should try a lot of things to find “their” special talent, and a cheerleader to encourage them to go for it.