Do you remember as a 7-year-old being mesmerised watching someone shoot the goal, singing in front of 1000s, or drawing a doodle on a page that looked like a masterpiece and thinking “I wish I could do that”…!
Remember feeling really anxious about something new you were trying, crying to your parents that you didn’t want to go anymore and wanting to quit…but they kept encouraging you to persevere and you reluctantly did…then one day it clicked and you totally got it…and now you can’t imagine life without it!
Some passions we don’t find until adulthood or even much later in life, but so many you find as a young child that you carry with you through life, sometimes even passing on to your own children. (Although all of my child’s have been vastly different to mine).
One of the ways I parent is to always encourage my child (who’s now a teen) to try things, give things a go, take that tiny spark she has in something further, just to see if there is something in it… to see if it may become something she is passionate about – or not.
How you can help your child find their passions:
1. Learn to look out for that tiny spark in your child:
That spark could be the very start of something amazing. You might find your child:
- Being captivated by watching someone play, perform, or do a task.
- Talking about the ‘thing’ they saw, on their own accord.
- Asking you questions about ‘how did that person get so good’?
- Wanting to seek out more information about it.
- Trying it out in the mirror or backyard at home.
2. Seize opportunities when you see them:
- Stop and watch street performers and ask your child what they liked about different ones.
- Head along to Open Days and see things in action and get a chance to have a go.
- Lead by example, jump on in yourself and give it a try.
- Remind them the idea is to just try it for a bit and see how you go.
- If they get asked to come up on stage to participate at events, encourage them to jump on in.
3. It’s hard to put yourself out there at 6, 16 or 36 years old…so support your kids to get them there in the first place:
Help them through the anxieties, nervous tears and not wanting to go… BUT just as importantly listen carefully and know the different between needing to get through this bit and knowing when ‘it’s not right’ and it’s time to walk away (with them).
Miss 15 needed a huge amount of encouragement and perseverance to keep up with dancing when she was 5. BUT I could see just how much she ‘wanted’ to do it and we could see the light at the end of the tunnel, so it was right in this case to keep persevering.
10 years later she is so glad she didn’t let that near crippling shyness win, as she loves her dance with an extreme passion.
4. Keep your eyes peeled and seek out opportunities:
- School Newsletters for After School Activities and special holiday one-off activities.
This is where we go a chance to try out dance lessons, Musical Theatre, netball, basketball, guitar, volleyball and loads more.
- Library Notice Boards.
This is where we first found the pre-school dance lessons an so much more on offer.
- Council website.
They often have a database of community organisations. Here we found things like swimming Lessons and a wide variety of Holiday Programs and activities over the years.
- Local Newspaper
For relevant events, free open days and expos in your community. Through this we found things like participating in Kids’ Market Days, loads of free shows (& expensive shows) that all played a part.
- Supermarket noticeboard
This is where we found athletics, one-off performances to watch, local shows to attend and second-hand equipment to buy.
- Friends & Family
Keep an ear out of what other friends are into too, as you may hear of something you didn’t know about. This is how we ended up going along to Forest & Bird Society trips to amazing places that we wouldn’t have known were a possibility, like special guided trips to Somes Island.
Google, Google and Google some more. This is how we found Big Air Open Days, different dance schools to try out, city-wide auditions to attend, weekend workshops, running & adventure races and skateboarding and wheels activities.
- City Summer Guides
Wellington produces a fantastic Summer guide as do many cities. We have seen concerts in the park, world-class break dancing competitions on the waterfront and unique kids only events we wouldn’t have known about without it.
5. It starts at home:
- Have creative tools at home from their young years, loads of paper, pens, fabric off cuts, jars, glue etc… You can pick so much up at second hand shops, $2 shops, at work (I’m always giving away paper and card we don’t need) and craft activities off the internet.
- Borrow or Hire a Sing Star and get your ‘sing on’, a Dance Mat to get your ‘Dance on’ or a Basketball hoop to get your ‘Hoop on’.
- Paint, draw, create…it doesn’t matter if it’s stick figures and round cats.
- Showcase your kids work, rotate their ‘work of the week’ in an easy to change frame on the wall.
- Record their performance and play it back to them, show Grandparents (if they let you).
- Verse them by simply ‘playing’ their favourite video games, on the court, at a dance off, at beat boxing or have a Masterchef challenge…
- Let them create stages, sets and put on performances and ‘really’ watch them.
- Each week think of the different sport you can try down at the park.
- Take them to concerts, events, sports games and shows that they might be interested in.
You have captured that spark…now what:
Passion usually come at a cost…how to manage $cost:
- Know your budget…but you will be surprised at what you can make work, even on a single parent income with not much wiggle room.
- Settle on a limit, what is sustainable for your family…it might be just trying two activities per term or could be two a week.
- Ask to be able to pay the term fees off weekly (set an automatic payment) you will be surprised how many places will say ‘yes’ when you are proactive and up front about it beforehand.
- Work out how much an upcoming activity costs divide it by the weeks between now and then and put that money aside in an account throughout the term to pay for it before it starts.
- Ask your workplace to pay for activities directly from your wages. Most payroll will be happy to do it for you. Set it and forget it.
- Hunt on Trademe, Garage Sales and Second hand shops for second-hand or cheap sports and music equipment to get your child started. Our rule was usually… you start with second hand/loaned equipment first while you are trying it. Once you commit for a 2nd term or further then we can look at new/er equipment.
- Friends often have old equipment knocking around in their garage they haven’t got around to getting rid of, ask them if they would sell it to you.
- Check with school or sports club if they have loan equipment, often they do.
Look for further opportunities to extend their passion:
- Sign up for extension classes.
- Audition for a special performance group.
- Find competitions to enter.
- Encourage them to compete in tournaments and workshops.
- If age appropriate find online support forums to learn more and get tips.
- Keep an ear out for opportunities for them to be mentored further or get extra tuition with others.
- Go to events that are their passion eg. All Blacks game and stay behind after to get an autograph of the star/s and a photo.
As a parent be prepared to put yourself out:
- Passions take time, effort, commitment from the kids…and the parents!
- Help them get into a good routine at home to get their practice in.
- Help them practice when it’s appropriate and know when to leave them to it.
- Give them physical space to practice.
- Don’t be surprised if you get ‘encouraged’ to be Team Manager, Coach, provide morning tea or drive the mini-van. Say yes if you can and be involved.
- Learn the names of the stars your kids love (that compete in that passion) and some info about them, so you can build them into conversation. Keep up with the latest news about these Stars showing you are in the know when they bring it up. Tell them things you read about them today. Whether it be Steve Hanson’s picks for the All Blacks squad or Justin Beiber’s scenic butt photo!
- Listen, watch, encourage – repeat.
- Print out court diagrams, practice words or music notes and stick them up around the house to learn quicker.
- Find balance, you can’t do everything all at once (Miss 15 would like to do EVERYTHING). Do what’s right for your family; sometimes you have to let things go.
- Make it a priority in your schedule to get to games, events and shows.
- Be ‘present’ in body and mind (turn your phone off) and refer back in conversation afterwards to particular parts of the game or show they did great in (and later in the week also) to show you were ‘really’ watching.
- Let them see you following your own passions.
- Make watching games and performances a family event, where appropriate get the siblings watching each other and cheering each other on from a young age.
Miss 15 persevered through dance when she was young and it has paid off big time for her with where it has taken her to in the years since. The confidence it has built in her life is inspiring and where it could yet take her in her future is exciting. She is now getting her chance to inspire young kids to follow in their Dance passion.
But on the other hand, a few years back she wanted to pick up a new extra sport. She did and she persevered for a long time. But this one caused her so much distress and extra anxiousness that it became too much. Eventually it led to breaking point where in this case it was then the right decisions (after much discussion) for her to talk with the coach and this time walk away.
My Mom saw that passion spark in me at age 14, which led her to sign us both up for classes in something she herself barely tolerated – Sewing classes. But she did it for me, to get me started, to help with that initial step of confidence knowing I wouldn’t have gone on my own.
I loved it with a passion, couldn’t get enough of it and carried on year in year out until I finished High School. Mom was able to quietly bow out after a couple of terms, much to her relief and I was off and flying into a sea of fabric and epic creations. Thanks Mom xx
Helping your kids find their passions is such an incredible gift you can give them…who knows where it may take them in life.
What have you seen spark in your children?
What are some ways you have been able to help them find it?
What do you wish your parents had seen in you?