Oct 14

How parents can help kids discover their talents

Some of the questions Iwas asking myself a while ago were How do I bring out the best in my child, How to find what my kid is good at, or How to identify my children’s’ talents they can build on when choosing a career path? While professional help and questionnaires remain an option when kids grow older, there are a few things I’ve learnt during the pandemic years which seem to answer all of these questions.   

As a teacher, I am aware of two distinct situations parents may be dealing with. On the one hand, there are kids open to learning and curious to explore the world around them, whether independently or with parents’ support.  On the other hand, there are kids, usually older, who show little interest in anything. Knowing your child may prompt different actions with more or less parents’ involvement.

Sit back and observe what entertains your child’s mind.
During the first series of lockdowns, my then first-grade daughter came across a vlog of a girl of her age who was a professional rhythmic gymnast. Credits go to her mother who shot amazing videos covering different aspects of the young sports star’s life, such as workouts, eating, managing school studies and lengthy trainings, competitions and everything that goes with them – wins and losses, costumes and makeup, etc. Through those videos being interesting to inspire, beautiful to watch, educational to learn from, both of my daughters started to do gymnastics exercises in our living room spending more time upside down and stretching than playing with their toys.

With plenty of time on hand during the pandemic, they got amazed with kitchen experiments which I set up for them at the beginning and as they developed confidence, they entertained themselves under my supervision. This lead to them learning about kitchen utensils and how they were used in cooking. Very soon cooking became their next obsession. To make it more fun, I worked this hobby into their school learning. For instance, when my daughter studied fractions in maths, I used to write the ingredients list using fractions. A few years on, and my elder daughter became an aspiring chef with insatiable interest in cooking books, cooking videos and her own recipes creation.

Based on my experience, I believe younger kids are naturally active in trying new things and are not afraid of making mistakes. All they need is parents’ encouragement and guidance in exploring new opportunities.

Expose kids to new experiences.
You’ll probably agree that people won’t want to play a violin if they don’t have a clue what a violin is. The same is true for kids – they cannot be expected to do what they don’t know about. And it is our job as parents to safely open their horizons and help them experience new things. I have never been a crafty person, yet there are a few basic craft skills I’d like my girls to learn: knitting and sewing. I mean, they need to be self-sufficient to put a button back on or fix a hole on their socks, or knit a basic scarf. Not only because it develops their fine motor skills, but because they need to learn essential competencies that will help them in life. We took a trip to a store where they picked the colourful yarn they liked. We then went to the local library to find a few craft books for kids to give us some ideas for beginner knitters. We could not hold our excitement all the way home. I must admit my craft skills are very basic, to give the most optimistic score. But having the three of us close to each other, flipping through the pages, and talking about different things we could make, with my frequent praise for their tiniest progress, did wonders. Today, I clearly see the enormous role of that afternoon in developing yet another hobby in my girls. We’ve been buying much more yarn since then and my daughters went on from knitting to crocheting, which made me conclude: it is the small steps that count.

Set an example.
I’m increasingly aware of being the role model for my kids they intuitively copy as they grow up. One day, I shared with them that every one of us holds many roles. My role as a mother is to prepare my children for life so they firmly stand their grounds when they are older. But in addition to being a parent, I am also a friend, a daughter, an employee, etc. And there are hobbies that fulfil me as a person, such as reading. I let the kids choose my next book. I let them bring me a cup of tea and an apple when I read. They ask me what the book is about and we have a conversation. Of course, I need to adapt the plot so they can understand. And it is amazing to see how they too think about their own strengths and talents. My elder daughter is an aspiring cook, my younger daughter is a future artist. And while this may change many times before time comes to choose their career path, it is heart-warming to see their keen interest to do better and learn more. And our open and honest chats play a big role in that.

Connect with your child.
I am lucky in a sense that my kids are still young and easy to guide in order to identify and develop their interests. However, I am thinking of the coming years when age separation will kick in and they may not be as receptive to my ideas as they are today. So what would I do if my kids become detached from me and I want to set them up for success in life by helping discover what they are good at?

Well, don’t judge me strictly, here is my plan. I’d observe carefully and find stories about kids in a similar situation, something important for them personally, whether about their appearance or something else. For instance, I’d give them books about kids feeling unmotivated and finding a purpose to change things over. I’d show them interviews of teenagers who lacked confidence and how they overcame this issue. Perhaps, I’ll turn for advice on good movies for teens about the most common problems of the age and have family nights watching movies that may resonate the most with my children. I’ll never be an ideal parent. I will make mistakes but I will continue loving my kids and help them discover the gifts they are born with that they can lean on when grown up.
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