Somewhere in the midst of final exams, prom, Friday night sporting events, and texting with friends, American teenagers are setting a course for their future. They’ve been asked a thousand times, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Now, as they approach adulthood, it’s almost show time. For some, the path is clear, while for many others, it’s a colossal question mark. No wonder recent surveys are showing that teens are more stressed than adults!
The good news is that parents can play an extremely beneficial role at this pivotal time in their teens’ lives. Through effective coaching and affirmation, we can help our teens navigate these years of uncertainty with confidence and purpose. We can help them answer the fundamental questions of who am I, what do I have to offer, and what are my opportunities. Here’s how…
Every child is unique and filled with treasure (assets) to offer the world. Unfortunately, most people – adults included – don’t have a complete and accurate understanding of their value and all of their assets. Some assets are obvious, but in other cases, their treasure lies buried beneath the surface waiting to be revealed. This is a huge issue during adolescence when teens are often planning their future through a blurry windshield.
Parents: as your teen’s biggest fan, this is where you come in. You can help mine your child’s treasure by inventorying his or her assets. Sit down one-on-one with your teen and talk through his or her strengths. Think about going through a related book together, like What I Wish I Knew at 18. By doing these kinds of things, you can help improve your teen’s self-awareness and self-confidence, as well as provide a clearer vision for the future.
One way to facilitate this conversation is by having your teen develop his or her Personal Balance Sheet. This tool helps identify and inventory an individual’s assets through self-assessments, feedback from others, and surveys. It offers powerful insights for planning your teen’s future – plus, it’s fun to complete!
Adolescence is also a time for teens to begin considering how they will offer their talents to positively impact the world. Life purposes are generally cause-driven (e.g., curing a disease, educating disadvantaged youth, sheltering the homeless, cleaning the planet, protecting our country) or skill-driven (e.g., athletes, artists, mathematicians, designers). Some of the most powerful are a blend of both. Importantly, purposes are not always tied to careers. After all, much significant work comes through community service and family management!
Here are some questions your teen can explore as they consider their life purpose and direction:
- What causes (e.g., global or community needs, people groups, situations, organizations) am I most passionate about?
- What problems would I most like to solve?
- What inspires and interests me the most?
- What brings me the greatest joy and sense of fulfillment?
- Whose life would I most like to emulate and why?
- What are my special gifts and talents?
- Where can my skills have the greatest potential impact?
- What experience has had the greatest influence on me?
These questions provide great fodder for personal reflection and family discussions. They’re worth answering throughout our adult lives, too!
By helping our children discover their uniqueness and value and by training them to be purposeful, we give them a gift of a lifetime. And, when we see them live it out, there’s nothing more fulfilling in the world.
Have you started talking with your teens about their life purpose and life goals? What tools have you used to help them discover their passions and assets?
Dennis Trittin is President and CEO of LifeSmart Publishing, author of What I Wish I Knew at 18: Life Lessons for the Road Ahead and co-author of Parenting for the Launch: Raising Teens to Succeed in the Real World. With world-class leadership experience, passionate advocacy for the next generation, and acclaimed resources and speaking engagements on the topics of leadership, life skills, and parenting, Dennis inspires and equips young people and those who guide them. You can follow him on Facebook and Twitter!