By Renee Williams

Several research studies show that creative arts and athletics are two of the top interests that kids identify with.

Activities such as hiking in nature, learning a subject matter like science or history, helping or serving others, taking on leadership roles, engaging in spirituality and advocating for animal welfare also made the list but arts and sports were top.

Search Institute, founded in 1958 by Merton P. Strommen, Ph.D., pioneered in using social science research to understand the lives, beliefs and values of young people. Strommen introduced a framework of the interests and passions that motivate youth and elements that help give them a sense of purpose, focus and future orientation. These elements are critical dimensions to improve well-being and helps strengthen efforts to increase young successful development.

All in all, the research shows that kids who ultimately thrive in their lives have two important supports:

1. Knowledge of what their interests are

2. Adults who support the development of those interests.

When these two conditions are met, children have:

• Higher grades

• Better school attendance and physical health

• Empathy and social competence

• Concern for the environment

• A desire to help others and a sense of purpose

Three simple steps that can help you find your child’s inner spark:

• First, spend time discreetly looking for clues to their sparks, looking with fresh eyes. As you look, ask yourself: When do they seem the happiest? Are they alone or with a group? When are they most absorbed in an activity?

• After you have observed and begin to notice more about their interests, passions and how they spend their time, you can start a spark conversation. What you’re after is having talks that help them discover their own abilities and possibilities, talks that empower them to try new things and take next steps.

• Finally, find a way to follow through with what you find out. If they love motorcycles, maybe you suggest a visit to the local Harley store. Maybe you call your brother or sister who has been riding for years. Maybe together you check online for community education classes in motorcycle safety.

Whatever it is, the main point is to take another step and once you identify your child’s spark: help ignite your child’s inner strengths by:

Affirming the spark

-Teach or mentor the spark

-Provide opportunities to express it

-Run interference and help eliminate obstacles

-Show up at recitals, games, performances, plays and events.

This article appears in the July 2017 issue of Augusta Family Magazine.
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