From my years working with teens, I have noticed that when a teen connects with their interests they are more focused on their future. They tend to be more motivated, as they press forward and over obstacles to obtain their goals. So we don’t want to let those teen years slip by without encouraging teenagers to discover their interests.
Sometimes, as parents, we can develop tunnel vision in our teen’s high school years, just trying to get them to the graduation ceremony. We want to check off all the right boxes, but in the midst of ensuring they are keeping up with their studies, making it to practices, navigating the social scene and helping out around the house, don’t forget to include career development into their education.
Already feel overwhelmed keeping your teen on task?
Well, here are 6 simple ways to encourage teens to discover their interests.
By applying any of these (or several of them) you will challenge your teens, ignite their interests and put them on the path to uncovering what they love to do!
Volunteer. When the main focus in not on hustling to get the bills paid, teens can use their most valuable commodity. One of a teens’ most valuable commodity is time! Using it now can put them on the fast track later! Watch for ways for your teen to volunteer in an area that they would love to explore. No need to wait for a paying job if a teen can jump in now gaining valuable experience!
Non-profits (food pantries, humane societies, Red Cross, etc…) and churches are run on volunteers. Connect with others in the community and see what awesome opportunities lay right within your town.
We live in a small community, but even within our city exciting volunteer ventures are available. Volunteering led one of our teenagers (and me…but that’s for another post) to a fulfilling, paying job later.
Many high schools still have teens volunteer as part of a community service for their education. Don’t waste the opportunity rushing to get that box checked off or following friends. Look for a place to volunteer that makes them want to jump out of bed to get there first!
Look out for crossover opportunities. Some teens have a main interest that they are earnestly developing. However, be on the watch for ways to expand their knowledge so that they are multi-talented within the same field.
Say, for example, that they love sports. Explore opportunities to teach younger kids the sport at a summer camp. Work as a referee for a season. As they expand their knowledge outward they may discover that they are even more passionate about another job within their current interest. Or it may be the little extra on their resume that gets them noticed.
Develop Mentors. Does your teens have crazy skills in an area you are clueless about? It happens! Don’t despair!
There is probably someone you know that would be delighted to discuss art or tech stuff or whatever it is that your teen seems to naturally love. Invite them over for an evening or see if they could use some extra help on a project.
Perhaps they can take a class or join an activity where they will develop friendships and gain leadership in an area that they are craving to learn more.
Cultural Experiences. Participating in cultural experiences within the greater community exposes them to interests from all over the world.
Going to museums, a play, a concert or an exposition opens minds to visualizing things or a way of life they never even imagined. Parents and grandparents sharing what they love can stir up or fuel an interest so that it grows to a passion.
While I would rather take my daughter to a cat show or a museum, I understood the importance of us all going to a farm expo last year. And while it was not quite as stimulating as say the Dayton Air force Museum, even this city gal learned a few things. Did you know that there is a driverless tractor??
Part-time Jobs. Time to get a job! Most teens will need a little push to find that first job. They may appreciate some help some with where to look and how to fill out an application.
Before you delve in, have a conversation about various options. Weigh the pros and cons. Discover if there is a job they can secure that will help them explore an interest or uncover something about themselves.
Would one job allow them to develop a transferable skill that they could take with them? Customer service, multi-tasking, problem solving are examples of transferable skills that once you conquer them are invaluable in many different settings. Waiting tables can translate to learning how to remember details and keeping calm under pressure. Those are transferable skills one will definitely need working in a fast paced environment later.
Spread the word in your friend and family sphere. Chances are others know of job possibilities that you have not heard about yet.
Talk and help them process their experience. This may seem simple, however it is one of the best ways for your teen to gain information. As a parent, you have a much bigger view of the world. You can help your teen translate what they have learned into valuable and tangible information.
Every job, no matter how short or small, allows one to learn another aspect about oneself. Processing this valuable information moves them from simply collecting a pay check to personal development!
Did they love or hate their last job. What in particular did they love? Was it the tasks, the group of people, the lack of people, the schedule, the boss, or the employees? What jobs did they dislike? If they only liked it, what would have made them LOVE it?
As teens began to explore and expand their interests they will gain such great experience. They will be able to verbalize more accurately what it is they love. Often, they will discover a career field that they want to dive into and study in college or in a continuing education course. They can avoid some of the pitfalls of choosing future jobs that don’t suit them. And most importantly they will gain confidence as they stretch themselves, recognizing that they are unique in their gifts and skills!