Should we tell our kids to pursue their passions or to be realistic about their life? Live their dreams or live in reality? My son recently told me he wanted to be an astronaut, and I didn’t have the heart to tell him that that probably wasn’t an option anymore, unless he paid for the flight! As a father and a teacher, I go back and forth on the subject of how and when to push kids toward or away from certain plans. Yes, I want young people to find something they are excited about and go for it, but when you’re young, and you live in a celebrity-obsessed culture, those ideas tend to fall into only a few categories–become a Bieber, a Woods, a Gates, or a Gaga. Tall Trees Grow Deep has created a short, printable contemplation activity, for the classroom or the kitchen table, as a way to encourage young people to think about how a career should combine their interests, their talents, and their passions.
A few generations ago, children had little choice. They went into the family business or worked the land their parents did. Now there are countless career options out there, more than most of us can keep track of. I do a lot of career surveys with my students, and half the jobs that come up we’ve never heard of before. What does a Medical Sonographer do? A System’s Analyst? (I’ve had this one explained to me so many times, and I still have no clue). But kids want to be what they see. In the past, this was why many kids did what their parents did and why families had generations of cops or teachers or trapeze artists. Today, it is why many young kids–including my own–want to be movie stars, rock stars, pro athletes, and, the now fourth most popular choice I hear, video game designer.
When my students announce they’ll do any job as long as it makes them rich, I try to help them see there are many careers that offer plenty of cash and personal satisfaction. When they tell me they’re going to be the next top athlete, I tell them they better be practicing every day, right now.
The truth is, we can see our passions in how we spend our time. I tell all my students, and my kids, that if they plan on becoming something, they better be doing it now. (That’s usually when they settle on becoming a video game designer.)
We as parents and educators need to find ways for our children and students to explore their passions now. If a kid wants to be a vet, there’s no reason why she can’t be putting in a few hours at a local shelter as a volunteer. My son likes dancing with his yo-yo, so I’m looking into an internship with the Smother’s Brothers.
My Mission My Passion Contemplation Activity is something you can do with your kids or students. It encourages them to think about how they can spend their time on earth working on something they are good at and passionate about. Happy people typically have a job or career that is in line with their skills, interests, and passions. It also encourages them to think of some opportunities they can take advantage of today, right now, that will lead them in the direction they want to go (internships, volunteer opportunities, job shadow experiences, and running away with the circus).
As parents, it’s important to recognize that we live in a magazine-cover culture, and this effects our young kids perceptions of success. Make sure you talk about happy and successful people who are not featured in People magazine. Make sure kids see that you are still pursing things you’re passionate about, even if it’s not always leading to fame or fortune, even if it’s not your day job. There’s more than one way to be a star.
Try out My Mission My Passion Contemplation Activity and let me know what you think.
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Please consider that many jobs of the future have not even been invented yet. It is extremely difficult to predict what will be a good career choice for our children. As adults, we only know the past and the present. The assumption that adults know what is best for young people is ridiculous. How many unhappy adults do you know in their current work situation? Usually because they took someone else’s advice. Young people need the freedom to pursue their own interests and make their own career related decisions. While I believe parents (grandparents and other adults intend to be helpful) I think their “advice” does more harm than good.