Teenagers nowadays tend to find their thoughts occupied by uncertainty, leaving them lost, listless, and lonely in pursuit of their passions. Most will find their purpose in time, along with the determination to see those dreams through.
As parents, how would we go about nudging them along?
Start by directly asking what catches their interest. Grant them a bit more freedom to explore new things, consequence-free. Remind them that they aren’t wasting any time at all.
Help them connect with like-minded crowds to further their passion and accept their goals with an open mind – even if you don’t fully understand what drives them.
As a parent, it’s your job to guide them through that journey. It can be difficult to figure out where to begin. Don’t worry – we’ve got you covered with the quick checklist coming up.
Ask About What Interests Them
A bit of curiosity directed towards your teen’s interests can go far, jump-starting their journey of self-discovery. This also provides you with the opportunity to validate their feelings and settle some worries they might be entertaining.
Your teen might already have an idea of what they want to do this early on – it’s simply a matter of asking the right questions!
Your teen may not be fully on board with your line of inquiry. A bit of hesitance is normal – these types of questions do carry some anxiety-inducing connotations, after all.
“What do you want to be when you grow up?”
There’s a weight behind this statement that most adults forget to realize. It may seem innocuous – and it’s intended this way for most cases – but there’s an undertone of decisiveness demanded. The question may feel loaded, and they’d struggle to find the right answer to give.
These types of questions box people in, giving them a picture of who or what they might be. This kind of constraint – imagined or otherwise – can be daunting. The thought dwells in the back of their minds, making it difficult for them to decide.
Try asking them what they want they enjoy doing rather than what they want to be. You don’t want your teen to feel cornered with your inquiry.
“What do you like to do in your free time?”
This question would likely be a bit less pressure-inducing for your teen to hear.
Open-ended questions are great for this, as they allow your teen to elaborate on what they like, how they may like it, and where they want to pursue this interest. Just steer clear of anything that might come off with implications or expectations they aren’t prepared to ponder just yet.
Reasons For Hesitation
Not every parent is open to their child’s passions – especially if they don’t align with their expectations. Your teen may also be hesitant not because of expectations, but the possibility that they’d be pushed away from an interest they hold dear to their hearts.
Teens are usually herded by their parents to pursue more practical interests. Someone invested in the arts might be discouraged from pursuing it in favor of fields with more certain returns and job security – fields such as medicine, law, or engineering.
They don’t want to share too much on the off-chance their passion would be refused, with their parents – by extension – refusing them as well.
Encourage Them To Try New Things
The notion of trying is deeply embedded with the possibility of failing. Most teens would rather cut their losses before beginning rather than run the risk of humiliating themselves.
The possibility of wasted time and no progress is scary, and they see some challenges as insurmountable when they’re only beginning to learn. It’s a self-imposed limitation that hampers their development but one that can be overturned with encouragement and the right attitude.
Firstly, they don’t necessarily fear failure – they fear the consequences that come with it. Shame, dejection, regret, and frustration are a few common experiences associated with failure.
We can mitigate those feelings with proper assurance to your child. Have them understand that exploration and adventure are fine and that they don’t need to excel at everything they try.
Cultivate an environment that doesn’t demand success in every endeavor, and have your teen feel that they’re allowed to fail and learn without being judged for it.
For Hesitant Teens
Your reassurance may not be enough at times. Your child could very well remain too afraid to even try, no matter the encouragement. In extreme cases, a bit of bluntness may be warranted to further their journey of self-actualization.
Enroll them in programs or workshops to provide them with new channels of exposure to potential interests. Experiences here are never wasted – either your teen finds their passion or they cross off options, streamlining their discovery process.
Reminders On Milestones
At some point, your teen was a little cranky infant drooling over their bib. They couldn’t walk, talk, or think, but look at them now. They’ve come along so well and improved exponentially.
Maybe they picked up a talent for working numbers. Maybe they happened to get better recitation scores on their literature. Your child is developing constantly in dozens of amazing ways you may not even notice!
They’re doing a great job, and a bit of encouragement on how well they’re doing can only improve things further. It takes a lot of bravery to try when you could fail, so don’t be stingy and shower them with the praise they deserve!
Give Them More Freedom To Discover
If you want your teen out exploring their interests, make sure to support them properly. Do your part to make their interests more accessible.
A common mistake most parents make is nudging their children to discover but doing nothing to encourage their journey. This simply creates new expectations to tack onto existing ones, furthering their anxiety and little else.
For example, say your son is at the age where they ought to start learning basketball. You start telling them they need to learn it, but that’s about all you provide. No training camps, no allowing them to shoot hoops with friends – not even the slightest bit of praise or recognition.
The weight of these expectations coupled with no foundational support set your teen up for failure. This furthers their discouragement, making them far less willing to explore new passions.
Help Them Find Like-Minded Crowds
While some people can develop their passions on their lonesome, almost everyone will find themselves thriving better in a community of others connected by the same interest.
While some passions can develop just fine with one driven individual, they absolutely thrive in the company of a community united by it. This shared interest provides a platform for your teen to connect with others while empowering their personal capabilities.
Joining the right crowd also gives them the opportunity to improve their career prospects. Think of the networking opportunities here! Many programs or organizations also have workshops or training courses that would look lovely on your teen’s CV.
Your teen’s passion should be determined by what they want, but that doesn’t mean they have to go at it alone. The right people can reinforce their ambitions, validate their journey, help them socialize, and drastically bolster the rate of their personal development.
Help Them Find A Mentor
While communities are amazing for realizing and finding your teen’s passion, they’re still relatively casual endeavors.
Sometimes they need more streamlined guidance, which is best provided by a mentor. Mentors grant constructive criticism and networking opportunities, making them invaluable assets for people eager to hone their talents.
Some fields definitely benefit more from mentorship than others, but you can’t go wrong looking at experienced hands for direction. How you’d go about locating mentors varies across different professions, but even an informal mentor would further your teen’s talent development greatly.
Be Ready To Accept Their Goals (But Be Smart About It)
Lastly, be ready to accommodate your teen’s passions to the best of your ability. It’s easy to say you support your teen when you think they’re working towards interests you endorse, but what happens when they find themselves driven towards ambitions you don’t fully understand?
Don’t get us wrong – blind acceptance isn’t the answer. Some pragmatism is warranted when considering your teen’s future. They need to find what makes them happy, but they also need to go about developing that passion without inhibiting their own future.
Do keep an open mind though. Once upon a time, electricity was a fad people felt wouldn’t catch on. Television became one too – until it ended up part of the future. A lot of mainstays in our life right now were things people in the past expected to fade into irrelevance decades ago.
Your teen’s odd hobby-slash-passion could become a staple in the world of tomorrow. Give your teen the benefit of the doubt as they try realizing their ambitions – even if you don’t fully understand what makes it so special.
Teenagers may need help trying to find their passion, so do all you can to encourage their personal development. Make them feel welcome to try, safe to fail, and excited to discover.
Help put them in touch with the right people to hone their interests. Give them some direction, but trust that they’ll make the most of the opportunities before them.