Your children’s high school and college years can be some of the most exciting, challenging and stressful — yet rewarding — years of their lives. New opportunities for growth, exploration, and developing professional and personal relationships are seemingly everywhere. By seizing on the wealth of opportunities available during these special years, your children will be one step closer to blossoming into happy, healthy independent adults who can create fulfilling lives for themselves.
While it may pull on your heartstrings to see your little ones who used to toddle across the kitchen now forging a path for their future, this exciting phase lets them uncover their true talents and allows them to shine. In Gallup’s StrengthsFinder 2.0, talent is described as a natural way of thinking, feeling or behaving. A strength is the result of taking that talent and with investment — skills, knowledge and practice — using it to provide near-perfect performance in a given activity.
Our children do best when they get to use their strengths every day. Likewise, when parents apply their own individual talents and strengths, parenting becomes easier and more fulfilling, which affects their children’s fulfillment too.
As tough as it may be, it’s important to give your children the independence they crave during these formative years. If they elect to drop a class or activity that is not a right fit in favor of one that fosters their creativity, trust their instincts and that they are using their natural talents to the best of their ability. Focus on creating a positive, supportive environment where your children can apply their talents and build them into strengths.
When was the last time you really listened to your kids talk about their passions and started a conversation about developing those areas? At this age, they need to know what steps to take to determine which opportunities are available and how to seek them out.
The Gallup Student Poll has studied nearly 4 million responses from high school students to help educators build focused education that will engage students today and make them ready for tomorrow. Gallup’s Student Poll measures four areas of student success: enthusiasm for school, hope for the future, a knack for entrepreneurship and an understanding of finances. For parents of high schoolers, talk with your children to gauge how they are doing in each of these areas. Maybe you will spark an idea for a side business based on their passions that they can start during summer break. A little extra spending money goes a long way during these busy years filled with after-school activities, homecoming dances and prom.
Of note to parents of older children, the Gallup-Purdue Index studied 30,000 U.S. college graduates to measure the degree to which students were engaged in their work and thriving in purpose, social, financial, community and physical well-being. The study concluded that those who had the following six experiences (Gallup’s Big Six) fared better later in life than those who didn’t have these experiences:
- Had a professor who made them excited about learning
- Had professors who cared about them as a person
- Had a mentor who encouraged them to pursue their goals and dreams
- Worked on a long-term project
- Had a job or internship where they applied what they were learning
- Were extremely involved in extracurricular activities
Stay involved in your children’s progress, and keep tabs on whether the Big Six are showing up in their lives. Pay attention to how they use their strengths in important interactions, whether it is developing a rapport with an internship coordinator or making a positive connection with a student adviser. Remaining focused on these key points allows you to be your kids’ biggest cheerleader and main support system for their long-term success. Our future doesn’t depend on everybody being the same; it depends on all individuals applying and sharing their unique talents, their blessings, their beliefs and their passions.
Take heart, new college parents. The holiday break will be here soon, and that means more opportunities to practice using your unique parenting strengths by touching base and really listening to how all those important new life experiences are going for your children as they navigate campus life.
About the author:
Mary Reckmeyer, Ph.D., is the Executive Director of Gallup’s Donald O. Clifton Child Development Center, which has received national attention for excellence in early childhood education and helped parents and children build their lives around strengths. She has studied talent-based interviews of thousands of individuals, including children, teachers and parents, and she helped create the Clifton Youth StrengthsExplorer. Reckmeyer also coauthored How Full Is Your Bucket? For Kids. She and her husband have four children.