How to identify your child's passions

Does your child know their passions?

Written by Megan van Wyk

Ah yes… Finding one’s passion. The quest everyone talks about, but few complete. How many people do you know who are truly passionate about what they are doing with their life? On the other hand, how many people do you know who are still searching for their passion?

We live in a world with endless possibilities; yet most people strive to simply make money, in whichever way possible. Parents tell their children they need to do well at school. Why? So that you can get into a good university. But why? So that you can get a job. Why? To make money. Money makes our world go round. Unfortunately, very often, this is at the expense of our mental health.

Don’t get me wrong! I am fully aware that money is necessary for survival and comfort, and that children do need to work hard to be able to provide adequately for themselves, and possibly a family. However, if we help our children to find their passion and help them to develop it, they might be so lucky as to make money by doing something they love. Here are some tips that will hopefully help you find and develop your child’s interests and, ultimately, their passion.

How will I know what my child is passionate about?

The answer to this question is simple – observe. Watch your child when they are playing and listen when they talk to you about their interests. This will help you get a good sense of your child’s likes and dislikes. For example, if your child watches the planes and helicopters that fly over your house in wonder and builds wings from the cardboard laying around the house, they are very clearly interested in flying. If your child is drawn to musical instruments or enjoys singing and making up songs, you may have a little musician on your hands!

Ask questions

Ask your child to tell you about what they love and why they love it so much. Every parent expresses the desire for a meaningful relationship with their child. I think cultivating a relationship in which your child is happy to talk to you about their interests and dreams is a wonderful bonding opportunity! It also encourages your child, in turn, to question the world around them. This critical thinking enables them to be aware of what they like, dislike, accept or what they deem important.

I know a guy!

When I was a little girl, I was absolutely sure that I would be a vet. My mom, a teacher, encouraged and supported this dream enthusiastically, which is something I will always be grateful for. She let me volunteer at the local SPCA, took me to the Veterinary Faculty’s open day, and arranged for me to help out at a veterinary clinic when I was a bit older. It was here that I realised that, as much as this was my dream, I couldn’t do it. The operations made me want to faint, and the idea of working with injured and abused animals was something I could not bear.

You might not know a thing about your child’s interest, but perhaps you know someone who does! Encourage your child to speak to someone in the profession in which they are interested. The legal world may make your head spin, but your cousin, who works at a law firm, can definitely tell your aspiring little lawyer a thing or two.

Expose your child to different things

If your child is not naturally drawn to something, encourage him/her to try some new things. Motivate your child to read books about a variety of different topics, watch random documentaries (age-appropriate of course), or take a walk though that museum you pass every day on your way to school. Let them try their hand at surfing, painting, writing, building, dancing, cooking or baking! The possibilities are endless.

You are your child’s most important cheerleader!

Once you have picked up on your child’s interests, encourage them! Yes, their interests might seem fleeting, especially when dealing with a very young child, but you might just see those interests develop into passions over time. Encourage your child to participate in activities that interest them, such as photography lessons, enrolling in a sports club or taking them on educational outings. If your child is an animal lover, take them to the zoo and let them explore. If your child expresses the desire to dance or play a musical instrument, look into sending them for a few lessons (or even just let them watch some nifty, and free, YouTube tutorials).

Be careful!

Like I said in the previous heading, you are the cheerleader, not the one in control. Don’t try and push your child into something they clearly aren’t interested in anymore, just because you think they could be some legendary soccer player or ballet dancer. Pay attention to your child’s progress, and build up your encouragement accordingly. Pushing your child into a certain role, or trying to live vicariously through them, will build resentment and frustration – not passion.

Your words matter

Complaining about one’s job seems about as commonplace as complaining about Eskom, doesn’t it? If your child hears you saying how much you hate your job, they will think that’s normal, and that they are also doomed to spend their adult lives hating their job. Instead of being negative, try and talk about the purpose and joy you get from doing your job.

Finding your child’s passion may seem like a very daunting task. You may not even have found yours yet, so how on earth can you help someone else find theirs? However, just by encouraging your child to pursue what they love, you are setting them up to develop confidence and self-esteem. A confident young person is happier and more positive, which spills over to other aspects of their lives, including school!

There is a saying that I often hear: “Do what you love, and you’ll never work a day in your life.” By guiding your child and encouraging them to find and pursue their passion, they might just end up feeling exactly like this. Wouldn’t that be wonderful?

The Author - Megan van Wyk

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