Fostering Your Child’s Interests: Taking a Strengths-Based Approach

Written by Stephanie Frumkin on . Posted in Advice Columns

Now that school is out, with the pools open and summer activities beginning, it is a great time to think seriously about how your children can capitalize on their talents and interests for the next school year. When your children are engaged in what they love, they will be energized and will thrive. Based on the principles of the benefits of a strengths-based education, I am going to discuss building up your children’s strengths, which is important for their well-being.

During the school year, children are told what to do and when for most of their waking hours. While parents bear the burden of responsibility, being a kid is also hard. Some kids seemingly take their tight schedules in stride, while others outwardly struggle with having little autonomy. Either way, helping your children capitalize on what they are good at and what they enjoy can only benefit them.

When children engage in their areas of strength, they feel positive about themselves, which helps combat low self-esteem or depression. Additionally, kids can become well-known in their communities for their talents and not just the areas in which they struggle, which tend to receive the bulk of attention.

Moreover, children are often able to find a like-minded peer group in their interest areas and really connect within this group. Children who are lagging in their social skills can benefit tremendously from these deep connections with peers.

As an added benefit, when kids are engaged in the activities they love and have friends with similar interests, there is little time or motivation left for getting into trouble. These passions can also reduce anxiety and stress, and keep kids from feeling despair or engaging in risky choices.

If you are not sure what your children are passionate about, observe what they enjoy doing when they think no one is watching. Think about where their natural abilities lie and what they might be interested in based on their personality types. For example, if your child loves putting on shows for the family at Thanksgiving, perhaps he would like to join a theater troupe. If she enjoys the outdoors, introduce her to scouting.

Be cautious about projecting your own interests onto your child, who may have very different interests from you and the rest of the family. Find your child’s unique strengths and interests, and value them.

If you are unsure about your children’s interests, or your children are very young, you can still facilitate opportunities for exploration and exposure to new things. Art museums, hiking, horseback riding, chess, piano, soccer, painting, cooking, parkour — the sky’s the limit! See what strikes their fancy.

If your children are older, help them choose electives at school that are meaningful to them. Even if you assert that taking a foreign language or learning to code is good for their future, allow your teens take an additional elective that speaks to them. Perhaps an added semester of art would boost their spirit more than that non-required math class.

Encourage your children to participate in school clubs and activities that interest them. Or if what interests them is not offered in school, find an outside resource. Enroll your children in the multitude of extracurriculars available in the community, many of which are free or low-cost.

Additionally, if your teens need to fulfill student service learning (SSL) hours, suggest they do it related to their interests so the requirement will be more meaningful and fulfilling. My son earns his SSL hours by playing board games (his passion) with seniors and other board gamers from his middle school. Win-win-win.

Nurturing your children’s strengths and passions is so important for healthy development. Guide and encourage them to pursue the things that make their eyes shine and heart sing. With all that positive energy emanating from your children, you may be inspired to dust off your own guitar and start playing again!

 By Stephanie Frumkin