Positioning Our Children for Purpose
Somewhere in the midst of final exams, prom, Friday night sporting events and texting with friends, American teenagers are setting a course for their future. They’ve been asked a thousand times, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Now, as they approach adulthood, it’s almost show time. For some, the path is clear, while for many (most!) others, it’s a colossal question mark. No wonder recent surveys are showing that teens are more stressed than adults!
The good news is that parents can play an extremely beneficial role at this pivotal time in their teens’ lives. Through effective coaching and affirmation, we can help our teens navigate these years of uncertainty with confidence and purpose. We can help them answer the fundamental questions of who am I, what do I have to offer and what are my opportunities. Here’s how…
Mining Their Treasure
Every child is unique has a treasure (assets) to offer the world. Unfortunately, most people – adults sometimes included – don’t have a complete and accurate understanding of their value and all of their assets. Some assets are obvious, but in other cases, the treasure lies buried beneath the surface waiting to be revealed. This is a huge issue during adolescence when teens are often planning their future through a blurry windshield.
Parents: as your teen’s biggest fan, this is where you come in. You can help mine your child’s treasure by inventorying his or her assets. Sit down one-on-one with your teen and talk through his or her strengths. By doing so, you’ll improve your teen’s self-awareness and self-confidence, as well as provide a clearer vision for the future.
One way to facilitate this conversation is by having your teen develop his or her own personal balance sheet. This tool helps identify and inventory an individual’s assets through self-assessments and surveys of others who know them well and can offer their perspectives. The one I developed is available here. This balance sheet offers powerful insights for helping plan your teen’s future – plus, it’s fun to complete!
Cultivating a Purposeful Mindset
Adolescence is also a time to begin considering how we’ll offer ourselves – and our talents – to worthy pursuits in order to positively impact the world. Life purposes are generally cause-driven (e.g., curing a disease, educating disadvantaged youth, sheltering the homeless, cleaning the planet, protecting our country) or skill-driven (e.g., athletes, artists, mathematicians, designers). Some of the most powerful are a blend of both. Importantly, purposes are not always tied to our careers. After all, some of our most significant work comes through community service and family management!
- What causes (e.g., global or community needs, people, situations, organizations) am I most passionate about?
- What problems would I most like to solve?
- What inspires me the most?
- What brings me the greatest joy and sense of fulfillment?
- Whose life would I most like to emulate and why?
- What are my special gifts and talents?
- Where can my skills have the greatest potential impact?
- What experience has had the greatest influence on me?
These questions provide great fodder for personal reflection and family discussions. They’re worth answering throughout our adult lives, too.
By helping our children discover their uniqueness and value and by training them to be purposeful, we give them a gift of a lifetime. And, when we see them live it out, there’s nothing more fulfilling in the world.
Dennis Trittin is the President and CEO of LifeSmart Publishing, LLC and author of Parenting for the Launch and What I Wish I Knew at 18. He is committed to helping young people reach their full potential and equipping parents with empowering strategies. Prior to founding LifeSmart, Dennis was a successful investment manager and senior executive at Russell Investments. He and his wife Jeanne have been married for 32 years, have two grown children, and reside in Gig Harbor, Washington. You can visit Dennis online at www.dennistrittin.com or www.lifesmartblog.com, and can find him on Facebook and Twitter.