Who do you want to be? .

Helping children find their voice

Helping children find their voice and determine who they are at their core has been a task for all generations.  Over the years we have certainly approached it in many different ways. There have been generations that  focused less on who you wanted to be as an adult and more on survival issues such as finding a job and feeling secure.  However, today’s students often have the luxury of envisioning a future where they can discover a career that not only pays the bills but also combines passion and purpose as well.

Nevertheless there are many pitfalls and detours that students may take that will leave them derailed from developing a lifestyle that matches their inner voice.  What are common mistakes?  Here are a few:

  1. They can become too absorbed in tracking other’s opinions rather determining their own.  Peer pressure and friend’s views have always been important but social media has enhanced this to an alarming level.  Every word and picture is up for everyone to like or love and it can become a personal mission to win approval. Finding your voice means turning inward and listening to your personal strengths and abilities, desires and passions not turning outward and tracking what others say.
  2. They can develop an expectation that everything must happen at the speed of light or at least at the speed of the internet connection.  Because we live in a microwave fast world, students can believe that they should be able to determine their life course lickety-split and give up on situations that don’t measure up quickly.  The days of expecting to pay your dues are gone and while there are some benefits to that, success is still dependent on persistence and determination.  Every opportunity is a chance to learn more about ourselves and what matters but sometimes it takes time to determine the benefits.
  3. They can become dependent on standard methods for finding their voice rather than developing their own path and journey.  While going directly from high school to college is certainly one pathway to exploring career options, there are many more that are not widely recognized.  Not every student needs to or even wants to go to college.  However there is often a lack of support and encouragement to discover alternative paths such as:
    1. taking a year to explore a variety of interests in order to be better focused in academic endeavors
    2. attending a community or trade school
    3. finding an apprenticeship situation
    4. creating their own business through entrepreneurial efforts

How Can We Help?

As educators and parents we can best help children find their voice when we provide opportunities for discovery rather give pat answers.  The world is changing rapidly and students need to learn how to cope and adapt to any situation, not just how to navigate the world as it is today. That being said, many of the best practices are actually old practices that are still useful in our new world.  We can help students:

1. Discover how to use their talents to help others and make the world a better place.

Rather than feeding off the approval of others, students can feel better about themselves when they serve others.  Approval becomes irrelevant when we focus on helping others rather than comparing ourselves to others.

2. Find a cause they can believe in that is bigger than themselves.

We all want to belong somewhere and students benefit when they can find a positive place to fit in. Belonging to a group or a cause can provide support and encouragement during tough or uncertain times.

3. Develop and reach for personal goals.

Children flourish when they are able to achieve what matters to them.  This is a much better self-esteem builder than hollow affirmations. It also teaches children that accomplishing goals is a process with many steps and an action plan, not something that magically happens because you wish for it.

It is a new, exciting and ever-changing world and the best preparation that we can give children is to embrace it with enthusiasm while exploring ways to use their gifts and talents for the betterment of others.

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