Teenage time of life is perhaps the most confusing and perplexing time. There are many physical and mental changes happening, and teenagers/youth have to make life changing decisions – deciding their careers and professions. Some young people have a lot of clarity, and know what they what they want to be. If you’re the parent of a teenager who is a little confused and has yet to find his/her purpose in life, then the following tips for helping youth find their purpose might help you help your teenager.
8 Tips for helping youth find their purpose in life
1. Look at what they love
Finding purpose in life is an endeavour which continues throughout life, as people become mature and their outlook on life changes. But, it is also necessary to start with one goal or purpose in life, in order to avoid wasting time and doing nothing. The key time to find life purpose is 18-23, according to researchers.
According to William Damon, the director of Stanford Centre on Adolescence explains purpose as a stable and general intention which is meaningful to them, and has a consequence for society. So how do you help teenagers to purposeful people who exhibit resourcefulness, resilience, persistence and are able to take healthy risks?
For helping youth find their purpose, you have to take note of what they love most, and support their choices. Young people will work at something which fires their passion, and what they are good at. As a parent, you may not agree with their choice, but one of the ways to help discover their calling, is to research and help them find career paths which align with their passion, which is the reason for them to get up every morning.
The interests could be linked to art, sports, spirituality or social media, IT, medicine – it could be anything!
2. Help them be positive and confident
While trying to find purpose, it is important to be positive and confident. Research by William Damon stressed that teens who have a high level of compassion, gratitude and tenacity, find it easier to find purpose. You can help your teenager to keep up the morale while going through the process of self-discovery, and your support would help to discover long term life goals.
3. Tell them they matter
When children are younger, parents shower them with praise for every small milestone. As they grow older, the praise becomes less and less as they are sometimes taken for granted. But teenagers are children still, and need your praise for their accomplishments. They need to feel that they matter to you and to society. They also should know the importance of being proactive for their own good and the world. Helping them to have good self-worth is one of the best ways to helping youth find their purpose.
4. Put priority on their intrinsic motivation
The education system worldwide is all about getting the right grades and getting into the best colleges. This system works for those who do well in school, and receive praise from their teachers for doing well in their studies. Many students who do well in studies in school are naturally motivated, driven children for whom studying is a pleasure or who thrive in the satisfaction of getting good grades. Parents need to know that there children who discover their calling within the academic system.
But, there are certain students who are not academically inclined, who struggle to have a good opinion of themselves. They may be artistically inclined, imaginative and find it difficult to concentrate on facts. In order to help your teen become a purpose driven teenager, you have to observe and see what makes your teen tick – in other words, does he/she have any interest which they have a deep internal motivation for. This interest could be film making, writing, painting, singing, acting, dancing, poetry, cooking, talking, photography, any kind of sports etc and they would be happiest if their skills in their particular talent is developed.
5. Talk to them
You have to talk to them on a regular basis. You can ask questions about their best qualities or strengths which will start them thinking. If you have seen their strengths, you might point them out, as they can then see it for themselves. Your discussions can finally lead them to their life’s purpose. You might share how you discovered what you wanted to so, including your setbacks, so that they can understand better how to discover their calling.
Let them know that it is alright to shift focus sometimes, but they have to explore all their avenues in one interest or purpose to the full, to make an informed decision regarding their future path. Offer them some flexibility and be ready to support their various changes of interests, till they are able to find their path, and you would then be helping youth find their purpose.
6. Reply to the ‘whys’
Some adolescents need to know why they have to study hard. They have the potential to do very well, but they do not put in the work, as they cannot see the benefit in it. If your teenager, who might be your child or your student, is suffering from the ‘boring’ schoolwork, you can motivate them by telling them all the good reasons why an education is necessary. They may want to do volunteer work or be environmental activists, then knowing the science behind it will make them better activists.
7. Get them enrolled in activities
Not every young person has an apparent talent. Getting young people to join group activities such as after school clubs, hobby groups, camping, exploring the community might be one of the ways for helping youth find their purpose. You never know which activity will strike a chord with them!
8. Coaches and mentors are important
Teenagers who find what to do in life, they are often helped by an inspiring figure. They have meaningful relationships with a teacher or guide which allows them to see the best things in them. Approval of adults is very motivating, but do encourage your teenager to talk to you about their guide/s so that they do not become overly dependent on them which is unhealthy. But a healthy relationship is rewarding and helps to create a purpose driven teenager.
Be patient with your teenager, so that they can reflect upon their decisions, and that they have your unconditional love and support through the process.