Help them discover their passions

The beauty of being human is that we are all unique and there is only one of us. Helping kids become who they truly are—by tapping into what makes them tick—is one of the most important jobs we have as parents. It’s a hard one too, because it demands we put down our own expectations and resist the urge to get in there and botch it up by trying to choose for them, rather than letting them discover their own passions. 

What’s tricky is kids are constantly developing and they may not even know that they love something, like macramé or woodworking or playing the viola until someone shows it to them. That means exposure is king. Show your kids as much about the world and how it works and what makes it shine that you can. Then, observe. Watch for clues and piece together the types of activities that make your child burst at the seams. What’s great about kids is they are often pretty exuberant when they discover something they like. It’s trickier to sort out innate skills they might have, but if you are watchful you’ll notice what they seem to pick up easily or what they seem relaxed and happy doing.  

If the (sport) shoe fits

We’re really good as parents at exposing our kids to organized sports, and that’s fine as many kids find enjoyment in sports. But it’s also important to think outside the box when it comes to physical activities. 

Some kids’ personalities or temperaments simply do not fit the physical and social demands of playing on a team sport. Maybe they prefer to work on one skill and master it versus many at a time. Maybe they don’t have the aggressive qualities some team sports demand. Maybe they simply don’t like crowds. Whatever the reason, honor it. There are hundreds of individual sports for kids to try out from archery, biking, climbing, disc golf, dance, fencing, figure skating, gymnastics, martial arts, Pilates, running, skateboarding, skiing, snowboarding, swimming, tennis, and yoga, just to name a few. Luckily, we live in an area where most of these are available for kids to try. 

The beauty of individual sports is that they are tailored to distinct strengths and attributes. They build self-reliance and inner confidence. With most individual sports, there are no benchwarmers.

Encourage your kids to try a variety of sports and activities, especially in elementary and middle school. The more they try, the broader their base of life experiences will be and the better chance you’ll hit on what makes them tick.  

Have them stick to it

Ideally, when kids want to try out a new activity, it’s best to do it in a way that they don’t have to make a major commitment right off the bat. Recreational activities are good ways to try something new. It’s important for kids to follow through and stick things out, and trying something in a more casual setting helps this happen. Let them decide when they feel serious about an activity. If they do decide to go out for the track team, encourage them to finish the season.  

Learn your child’s rhythm

Every child’s comfort level with activity is different. Some prefer to run from one event to the next. Others feel overwhelmed with just making it to school and a practice a few times a week. One way is not better than the other. What’s imperative is matching your child’s activity level with their nature.  

Know and honor your kids’ preferences for down time. When picking activities, take cues from your kids on how much they can handle. There may be vast differences even in your own family. Take time to gauge your kids’ stress levels. Are they doing too much? Too little? Support them in finding a healthy balance while discovering who they are.