Empower Your Teen to Follow His or Her Dreams
- Friday, September 23, 2005
Your teen son or daughter has dreams bubbling up inside that can either spring forth in power or fade away like steam. As a parent, you can help develop those dreams – in science fairs, art shows, skating rinks, orchestras, basketball courts, and anywhere else your teen pursues them. Your encouragement and support is vital to keep your teen’s dreams alive and growing.
Here’s how you can empower your teen to follow his or her dreams:
Dream big dreams yourself. Model for your teen what being a dreamer looks like. Believe that your own life is full of possibilities and opportunities from God. Pursue your dreams with passion. Show your teen that God is much bigger than people’s fears of making changes and taking risks.
Support your teen’s interests. No matter what activities in the realm of academics, church, music, sports, or community service capture your teen’s interest, offer your support. Be willing to invest time, effort, and money while also encouraging your teen’s pursuits.
Encourage your teen to try different things. Expect some efforts to show promise and others not to go well. Recognize that it’s just as valuable to learn which interests not to pursue as it is to discover which interests to pursue.
Say "yes" as often as possible. Whenever your teen wants to try a new activity or take the next step in pursuing an interest, try to say "yes" as often as you can to enable his or her dreams to keep growing.
Learn from setbacks. Help your teen understand that setbacks are almost inevitable on the road to a dream. Teach him or her to respond to setbacks wisely by considering what lessons can be learned from each situation. For example, might God be using it to develop a certain character quality in your teen’s life?
Help your teen develop a healthy self-esteem. Understand that, while God doesn’t want your teen to be arrogant, He does want him or her to have the confidence necessary to pursue dreams. Show unconditional love; make sure your teen knows that no matter what choices he or she makes, you will still accept and love him or her completely. Regularly express your love to your teen by saying "I love you" and offering praise, compliments, positive touches such as hugs, time, and attention.
Whenever your teen makes mistakes, hate the sin but love the sinner. Demonstrate grace by being willing to forgive and work together to help your teen try again. Catch your teen doing something good every day, and tell him or her about it. Help your teen notice his or her own areas of success. Be your teen’s biggest fan by celebrating his or her achievements, no matter how large or small.
Say "no" to your teen’s requests when necessary; remember that spoiled kids don’t appreciate life’s benefits and achievements. Speak often and positively about their dreams and the possibilities that are open to them.
Understand, respect, and work with the way your teen is wired. Ask your teen questions to find out more about how God has wired him or her. Try some like these:
"What really drives you?"
"What’s the most fun you’ve ever had helping someone else?"
"What dreams do you think God has given you?"
"What can you do that most people can’t"
"What ability would you most like to develop? Why?"
"If God hired you for a summer job, what would you hope it would be? Why?"
"If you could design a specific way to serve God and knew you wouldn’t fail, what would you do?".
Listen carefully to how your teen responds, and learn from what he or she says. Also, ask others who work regularly with your teen (such as teachers, youth group leaders, coaches, school counselors, Scout leaders, Sunday School teachers, and parents of close friends) what they’ve observed about your teen’s likes and dislikes, interests and passions, abilities and aptitudes.
Affirm your teen’s unique wiring – whether or not that is similar to your own. Let your teen know you’re pleased with him or her through physical affection, spoken words of encouragement, emphasizing that your teen’s value is based on who he or she is (rather than on what he or she does), envisioning a special future together, and devoting time, energy, creativity, and resources to supporting your teen’s hopes for the future.
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