Head of School Notes
YDR: Six ways to help a child begin to identify a purpose (column)
A new school year builds anticipation for students and parents. This fresh start presents an opportunity for parents to partner with their children and to set goals for the year. Many goals on this list include academic achievements and extracurricular involvement. Parents and children commit to these goals and many times, achieve them. However, over the years, children indicate that despite all that they are doing (and doing well), there remains an unanswered question: "What is my purpose?"
This is a powerful question paired with a strong desire to not only make sense of their lives, but to identify a higher calling to contribute to the world around them. It is important to help a child identify an authentic purpose even though this might change over the years. Use your life experience to expose him to all that life has to offer.
Here are six ways to help a child begin to identify a purpose:
1) Recognize differences as strengths. Many children strive to belong and to fit into their social groups. This is developmentally appropriate and translates into a feeling of safety for them. Despite this tug to assimilate, children exhibit differences that should be underscored and celebrated. Help your child recognize that remarkable traits, skills and talents are things that, when nurtured and recognized, help distinguish them and strengthen their sense of self and identity.
2) Begin a travel log. Exposure to various landscapes and locations are often an impetus for inquisitiveness and can spark a keen interest or passion. Map out various places in the community and beyond that generates enthusiasm and extends curiosity. Keep a travel log of all of the places you travel and have your child add reflections, drawings or leaflets to commemorate time spent at this location. Good, bad or otherwise, a child's feedback will help inform his or her preferences. There are several places in York to add to your list including: Lake Redman, York County Heritage Trust (the Historical Society Museum, the Agricultural and Industrial Museum and the Colonial Complex), the Art Galleries at York College of Pennsylvania, York Arts Gallery (reopening this October) and Heritage Rail Trail Park.
3) Implement a restorative hour. Children need downtime to decompress and to refuel their imagination. Often times, with few distractions, children begin to dream, explore and to tinker with items around the house. This time should be unstructured with no expectations other than providing a space for daydreaming. When a person is given an extended period to dream and to imagine, one can begin to formulate questions to explore and new ideas to consider.
4) Meet with enthusiasts. People with passions are easy to recognize, and spending time with them is one of the most enjoyable ways to become inspired. Visit with friends, neighbors and community members who spend time doing something that they love and who would appreciate the opportunity to share their enthusiasm. The most productive visits are those spent with people who find joy in the process of their work, not necessarily the product.
5) Read together. Set aside time a few days a week to read together. Most children savor the experience of hearing a story, particularly from someone they love. Discover new ideas, learn more about current topics and read biographies of inspirational individuals. Through this shared experience, parents will be able to answer challenging questions and help identify related materials for further reading.
6) Serve. Community service teaches a child responsibility — responsibility for others and for the greater good of the community. It also can strengthen your connection with your child. Because children can easily recognize the immediate impact of their efforts and how goodwill can benefit others, they might welcome the opportunity for continued service and identify various ways to contribute. Additionally, serving others can begin to frame children's understanding of our more complex world and their place in it.
Identifying one's purpose can be a life-long pursuit. Enjoying this journey with your child might inspire you to take on new aspirations, or better yet, a joint endeavor.
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