Ideas for Helping You and Your Child Thrive
If there’s one thing all parents can agree on, it’s that we all want our children to thrive. One way to put them on the path toward thriving is to help them discover their spark – that thing that makes them light up from inside.
As a parent, you can help your child discover her spark, and watch this unique characteristic develop over time. One of the side benefits of helping your child discover and develop their spark(s) is that you can reconnect with your own by going on the spark journey together!
- Find opportunities to comment on activities your child seems to really enjoy. After noting that they seemed particularly happy or engaged by the activity, tell them you are interested in finding out what they most enjoyed about it. Then listen.
- Spend some time reflecting on the activities that gave you joy when you were the age of your child. Share some stories about those activities with your child.
- Make it a priority to spend some family time every few weeks talking about how you have engaged with your spark – or spend some time exploring possible spark areas together.
- Encourage your adult friends to share stories about their own sparks and how they discovered them. Comment on how some of your friends have sparks similar to yours, while others have sparks that are quite different than your own. Tell them how that enriches your life.
- Ask your child’s friends about their sparks. Show your interest in their responses. Encourage activities that help your child and his or her friends develop their sparks. Get easy activity ideas for exploring sparks >
- Create a safe but interesting environment for them to explore. Do they have opportunities for physical activity and movement? Blocks they can stack and assemble? Crayons, finger paints and paper? Music ? Picture books on a wide variety of topics? Playing with your child gives you a great opportunity to revisit some of these activities for yourself as well. Did you have more fun than you expected with the finger painting or the blocks? Make a mental note of what you enjoyed.
- Watch what activities your kids gravitate toward. You can pick up some early clues about possible sparks. Some children will enjoy sampling lots of activities. Others may find comfort in repeating familiar ones. That can be another clue to their preferences.
- Encourage role playing and conversations about what they want to be when they grow up. Today they might want to play school with you and be the teacher. Tomorrow they might want to line all their stuffed toys up to have their shots as they play doctor. Encourage them to talk to you about what they are doing.
- At school, your child will have classmates who share common interests and classmates with very different interests. Note whether she selects friends that are mostly interested in the same activity, or has friends with many different sparks. Be aware that sometimes friendships shift as interests shift –or that your child might drop an interest and adopt the same interest as someone new that they admire. What sparks do your friends have?
- If your child struggles with reading or does not read for pleasure, use his emerging spark as a way to help him select reading materials that will keep him engaged. Remember that pleasure reading can include magazines, cook books, books on crafts and other materials that help him explore his deepest interests. Model reading a variety of materials tied to your own sparks.
- Children this age enjoy stories about themselves when they were younger. Remind her of activities she loved when she was “little”, noting whether you see her interested in something similar or different now that she is “older.”
- Sometimes your child will show an interest in some activity, almost to the exclusion of all others. While focused attention can lead to mastery over time, you can also talk with him about finding a balance between the one activity he most wants to do, and the other responsibilities he has at school and at home.
- As your child goes through these years, it is easy to think that now, while she is engaged in her activities, you can have some time for yourself. While finding time for yourself is important, make time to show up for games, performances and other events is a tangible way to show her you love her. Do you happen to have the same spark as your child? Find ways to engage in it together.
- If your child begins to develop skills in a particular activity, it is easy to become invested in his continued interest and success. If his interests shift, you may have to make a conscious effort not to be overly invested in the activity he leaves behind. At the same time, not quitting mid-season and fulfilling commitments to teammates is another important lesson. Learning how and when to make graceful transitions between activities and friendships is a part of learning and growing.
- Your teenager will be thinking and making decisions about choices after high school. It can be easy to tell her that her love of art isn’t practical or that few high school athletes make the transition to professional athlete. For too many young people, this feels like a message to drop their spark completely, even if the intent is to protect them from some future disappointment. Use questions more than statements. Ask them what they would love to do in the future. Help them find information about how to pursue their strongest interests. Find adults in their chosen career field who can offer strategic advice. Use school guidance counselors and other resources to help with these conversations.
- Our advice to our teenagers at this stage can be colored by our own experiences. Reflect on the messages adults gave you about pursuing your spark, and the choices you have made over the years. Think about which of your experiences you are willing to share with your teen.
- Teens can be stressed by all the demands on their time. While school work and other commitments need to be a priority, help your teen make time to enjoy their spark. Model this by finding time to pursue your spark as well.
- If your child has opportunities to find and engage in something they absolutely love to do, then, whether that spark changes over time or remains the same, they will know what it feels like to be deeply engaged and can aim toward that deep level of engagement as they move forward. This is the path toward thriving.
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Enriching Families’ Community Connections: A Two-Way Street, presented by Dr. Eugene C. Roehlkepartain, Vice President, Research and Development at Search Institute and Dr. Hedy Walls, Vice President of Social Responsibility at YMCA of the Greater Twin Cities
Tuesday, July 8, 2014, 12PM - 1PM, CDT