How to Encourage the Special Interests of Our Children5:59 PM
The photo below can hardly be called an exceptional image but to me, it is. This is for the simple reason that this photo was taken by my 9-year old daughter using our outdated camera which she discovered inside one of our drawers. I have observed for some time how she likes to take pictures especially of animals and so I let her be. I suppose we parents can do no wrong when we encourage the special interests of our children, specifically those that can potentially develop skills. Even those engaged in purely for clean fun, help our children have a more positive and healthy outlook in life.
Allow Children to Discover Their Own Interests
It is but normal for parents to encourage children to participate in activities they think can help in holistic development. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this except probably when children are forced to do it. Since we are talking about special interests here, the activity should be something which a child really wants to do. Otherwise, it becomes just another chore to get over with.
It would be wise for parents to observe and then provide just the right push when a child shows preference for a specific activity. The participation of parents in developing a child's special interest will be needed particularly when some formal training would be required. Some equipment or gears may be needed as well. Aside from the financial support, guidance and encouragement from parents will go a long way in a child's effort to do good or excel.
Give Time and Space
Parents must give time and space to their children to allow them to discover how far they can take their special interest. Children must have the time to indulge in the activity and have a place in which to freely engage in it. If the child's interest is in arts and crafts, then allotting a small space at home for it can be done with some adjustment. Bringing a child to a community field for sports would require time from parents but the benefits for the "sacrifice" are unlimited.
Show Appreciation for Results
Most children are encouraged to do better when their efforts are praised. A word of caution though against leading them on to unrealistic expectations as it might be counter-productive. There is no need for children to be champions or leaders in everything they do. Often, there is a very fine line that separates constructive encouragement and outright lying. Then again, even parents cannot say with absolute authority that their children will have no future in an interest they have set their hearts on if they try hard enough. This leads us back to the default function of parents for their children which is providing moral support.
Allow for Change of Plans
Since children are children, they can change their minds more often than not when it comes to their special interests. It is a good idea to wait a while on investing on expensive equipment and gears until such time it would appear that the child is seriously pursuing the interest. Parents should constantly be talking with their children to gauge for themselves how their children are getting along. This will be an opportune time to offer some advice and pointers.
I was quite fortunate that my parents allowed me to engage in several extra-curricular activities in school. They supported me, patiently waited for me during practice sessions, watched my performances without fail, and even enrolled me in all possible dancing lessons trending during my time except for ballet. I was a member of the Dance Club, Glee Club, Library Club, a club where we get to teach pre-school kids, and the list goes on and on.
That said, The freedom of having the choice to pursue what I wanted is probably the reason why I remember my childhood as a happy one. There was only one that was kind of "forced" on me which was studying to play the organ. Playing it was not the problem but playing it in front of my parents' friends surely was. You know how parents are in "promoting" their children's talents at every opportunity, I used to cringe on that.
Looking back now, I am thankful even for that because I learned - a lot. I hope I can provide my own children the support they need to develop their special interests. Whether my daughter seriously pursues photography or some other interest, I just wish I can give her all the opportunities to do it. The same wish goes for my teenage son.