Sparks, as the Search Institute refers to them, are your child’s interests, their passions or focus that bring meaning, joy and energy into their life. Depending on your child’s age, experiences and temperament you may be quite aware of what makes your child light up inside, or you might not have a clue. Sometimes these change for our children, as they do for us.
Being interested in and encouraging of these sparks can make a huge difference for your child. Research has shown that kids who have caring adults in their lives who support them in their interests do better in school, develop positive peer friendships, have a greater sense of empathy and desire to help others. Kids whose parents, family and community encourage them to develop their sparks are healthier, engage in fewer risk taking behaviors and are more satisfied with their lives overall.
Finding out what interests your child can be a fun and wonderful journey. The best way to find out what interests your child is to explore new experiences with them.
Here are some simple tips to keep in mind when trying new activities with your child:
Remember to enjoy the journey. Don’t push your child to find out what they like, it will defeat the purpose.
Encourage curiosity and questions. Explore answers together. Sometimes the many questions of a curious child can be overwhelming. Support your child in finding the answers themselves (or with you). Together you can look up an answer online or ask a librarian how to research a topic.
Watch your child during this process and listen to them. Try not to make these activities about you, but allow your child to explore without pressure. This is important because finding out that we like something can make us feel vulnerable or unsure at first. Allowing your child to go through this process naturally will help them identify what they like and what brings them joy. This is the time to observe. When your child lights up as they plant their first garden or asks for follow-up music lessons, create more opportunities for them to do what they are gravitating towards.
Have fun in the process! No matter if your child finds their “spark” through the activities you do together or through some other avenue – when you spend time together you are building a stronger relationship with your child.