By: Nancy Tellett-Royce, author and parenting expert
Are you looking for ways to connect at a deeper level with your child? Begin a spark journey together!
Chances are, you and your child already have a spark; you just may not be calling it by that name.
So, what exactly is a spark?
A spark is an individual’s deepest passion and interest. It is something that gives them meaning, focus, joy and energy.
Research has shown the importance of finding one’s spark and finding ‘spark champions’ to affirm and support the development of that spark.
Young people who could identify their spark and knew they had adults who saw and supported their spark were also more likely to:
• Have higher grades in school and better attendance
• Be socially competent and volunteer to help others
• Be physically healthy, and
• Have a sense of purpose
For some young people, their spark or passion emerges early. You can see it in the preschooler who loves to sing along with the soundtrack to their favorite movie, or hums and sings the songs they have learned at preschool, and keeps this interest alive right up through choir or musical theater in high school. Or it might be the child who draws on everything (even your walls!) from the moment they can hold a crayon or pencil.
With other children, their spark emerges later as they build up enough experiences to know what they really love based on all the activities they have tried. Some may say they don’t know what their spark is; others will name a spark a week as they try on one after another. Offering a wide range of activities allows them to do this exploration on their journey toward their spark.
As a parent, you can have fun, as well as know you are helping your child thrive by starting together on a spark journey. Click here for tips to help you start up a spark conversation with your child >
From my conversations with many parents over the past two years, I’ve gathered some tips to keep in mind when embarking on a spark journey:
- Your child’s spark might be the same as yours, but it might be something completely different.
It’s easy and natural to look for ways our children are like us, but supporting them in pursuing their own interests is important to their healthy development. One father identified hockey as a spark he shared with both his sons. When he was prompted to ask each of them what it was about hockey that they liked the most, the older son named the games and the competition as the part he enjoyed most. But the younger son said he didn’t like the games as much as he liked the practices, the drills and competing with himself to improve his skills. This new information gave the dad a way to have a different set of conversations with each son, and allowed both to feel that their dad “understood” them.
- The easiest sparks to spot are often linked to a talent or skill, but that might not be what your child is most passionate about.
You might have a child who is talented as a writer or an athlete or debater, but if you ask them whether it is the thing they most enjoy doing, you might get a completely different answer. Don’t worry if your child is not exceptional at the spark that gives them joy. A number of research studies have identified 10,000 hours as the point at which a person achieves mastery in their profession. When watching your child, keep an eye out for the thing they love spending their time doing, not just the thing they do best. Remember, too, that their spark might be a quality about themselves (like being the peacemaker amongst their friends) or a deep commitment (such as saving the environment) rather than an activity.
- Be prepared to embark on your own spark journey!