Parents want the best for our children. We hope they’ll find their true purpose in life and grow up to be happy and fulfilled. But there’s a fine line between pushing them into what we think is best for them and allowing them to shape their destiny.
So how can we guide them without being overbearing? We asked successful professionals from a variety of fields for tips on helping your children find their life purpose. Here are their words of wisdom.
Make It About Them
As adults, there is a good likelihood that we disconnected from what we like or used to like as kids. We rationalize why some new dreams, activities, foods or interests, should not be something to try out. Some adults even find themselves imposing the same rules to their kids.
Julia Cha, success coach and a best-selling author, sees this many times with parents in successful careers. She attributes this to the feelings and experience that these parents may have experienced as children.
“They weren’t given the chance to explore their activities or interests without any strings attached. So any action that don’t contribute to their success makes them anxious,” Cha says, “these feelings and thoughts unintentionally get passed onto their kids”.
Cha suggests letting kids determine what they are naturally drawn to, “let them come to you first. What strikes their interests? What naturally draws them? What do they think they excel at? Whatever it is, support them throughout the process”.
Brainstorm Career Opportunities
For some children, reverse-engineering from where they want to be in life can be the best way to help understand their life purpose. As an executive coach that works with executives that are also parents, Catherine Bellanca highly recommends this approach.
“Have your children brainstorm things that are important to them in different areas and then look for connections between them and see what excites them the most,” Bellanca suggests, “what are they good at? What can they spend hours on without getting distracted?”.
Some of these might be career-related right from the get-go while some of them might seem insignificant. However, based on their natural inclination, there are ways to develop these into tangible interests and goals.
Just by asking the children where they feel these interests would take them, they’ll be able to see how these interests can relate to their career goals as well as any other life purposes that they have.
Explore New Possibilities
Andy Storch, author of Own Your Career, Own Your Life, advises exposing kids to as many different ideas, people, and cultures as possible.
“it's important to expose them to many different ideas, topics, people and cultures and then encourage them to explore and try different things,” Storch says, “have them try new things and not fear failure”.
Reward kids for hard work and curiosity instead of the end goal. It’s not about whether they win or lose, it’s about the process.
Susan McVea, sales strategist and a mother of two, also agrees with the importance of exposing children to a variety of things from a young age. For kids it’s easy to see what they enjoy and support them in finding ways to do more of what they love in productive and healthy ways.
She adds, “other people’s expectations or what may be perceived as cool might influence what your kids pursue if not encouraged early on. So get them to try a lot of things. Keep things pressure free”.
Consider The Possibilities of Multiple Life Purposes
When thinking of life purpose, there is an implicit expectation that we only get to choose one. But consider that approach may not work with your child. They may have multiple life purposes and dreams.
“For many, having one life purpose works. But for multi-passionate kids, this approach won’t work,” Brooke Kalan, transformational life coach, says, “as a parent, you need to be the first one to tell them it is okay to have more than one life purpose”.
Kalan gives a personal example, “as a child, I was drawn to movement based activities like dancing, horseback riding, theater etc. Though I didn’t pursue career in those fields, all of them thread itself into who I am now”.
It’s the same way for your kids. Though what they like right now won’t necessarily be what they choose as a career, it is still what makes them who they are. It is what shapes their value and personalities. It may even be what helps them realize their life purposes.
Remember that it’s okay if your children are drawn towards multiple things. They just may be destined for multiple different life paths.
Parents want to give kids the best of everything. They want the children to feel fulfilled. A great way to help children feel fulfilled is to help them serve others. Not only does it equip them with great interpersonal skills, it may be exactly what helps some children find their life purpose.
Gregory Giagnocavo, business consultant and a father who raised seven children, shares that helping his children serve others was what helped them find their life mission.
Giagnocavo says, “sure, experiencing different situations and career possibilities was important in raising seven children. But what made difference for my children was when they were volunteering or serving others. Many children value giving and helping people. So being in these situations really stroke a chord with them”.
By continuing to encouraging your children to serve others, they will find themselves in new situations that allow them to learn a lot about themselves. It may just be the event that helps them find their life purposes.