Infants through Elementary School Age:
Those of us who have just become parents or who have little ones at home, or even those whose jobs bring us around babies and young children, know how special these young people are. They are "sponges" to learning. That is a major strength of this age. They are curious about everything. Spend time, as one of the adults in their life, helping them to nurture this trait by exposing them to many different types of positive experiences. Talk to them, interact with them, and help them to find answers to questions that you do not even know the answer to. Teach them how to interact with others, how to respect others and how to grow that strength of desire to learn. Put down the cell phone. Limit television and video game time. Kids need to know how to talk and play with others "in person". This generation is seriously lacking human interactive practice with the ones they love. We can either promote or hinder that by our actions as the adults in their life.
Preteen through Teenage Years:
One strength of this age is a striving to understand who they are and what they want to become. The challenge of this age is making sure our kids are having the right influences by the right people. We won't know what influences our kids are being exposed to if we are not around. Working parents is a commonplace experience today. That is not a problem if we, once again, put down our electronics and actually "talk" to our kids about their life when we are with them. Engage with them every chance you get. Teenagers have great insight. Ask them what they want to do with their life. Ask them what they are passionate about. Help them to explore those interests so they are better prepared to decide what they want out of their own life. The better prepared kids can become at this age, the more confidence they build at becoming an adult. Also, the less they will need to rely on parents moving forward, because they have used their strength, with the help of trusting adults around them, to define their path and know how to follow it.
College Years through Twenties:
Great strengths of this age are independence, learning how to fail and picking yourself up. How can failing be a strength? If we fail at something and are tested to revise our plan on our own, we learn that failing at something is not necessarily the end of the world. We learn how to evaluate situations and fix things on our own so we don't continue to make the same mistakes. If there has been a good base of helping a person define who they are and what they want, failure is just another experience that they have to get through. As they go through multiple (hopefully small) failures, that sense of independence grows. "I can do this." That fully-developed skill will be priceless in years to come.
Parents of young adults can help by not always "fixing" everything for their kids. Instead ask, "So how would you fix this? What are your ideas to change the situation?" Don't just give them the $$ or the answers to fix the problem. Help them to own the problem and use their strength of independence to solve their own problems.
I just want to comment on my mention of electronics and what you may perceive as a negative opinion. I am thankful for being able to see pictures of my daughters' friends in college and the places they visit due to the technology available today but, from my experience, young children learn many valuable lessons from tactile interactions and experiences, and kids don't seem to be getting enough of that these days. In my practice, I am hearing all too often how busy parents are and there is not enough time in our day to get it all done. My suggestion: "Stop posting your life on Facebook. Just live it and experience it with the ones you love."
Stay tuned for next month's newsletter to understand the strengths of those in the next phases of life.