There is no one quite like your kid. Their silly jokes, their creative (sometimes messy) endeavors, and other particularities make them wholly one-of-a-kind. Nurturing their interests and helping them engage with activities they love can help them to develop their individuality and sense of self. However, sometimes parents can inadvertently stifle their child’s originality with their own expectations. By taking care to celebrate their natural talents and interests and managing projection as a parent, you can set up your child to thrive.
Projection is the unconscious process wherein we displace our feelings to someone else.
Dr Christine B.L. Adams, a child and adult and psychiatrist, notes, “each child displays specific behaviors, ways of thinking, and ways of experiencing their emotions, depending on the variety of parental conditioning”. Therefore, it is important to notice when your own “stuff” impacts what you encourage in your child.
The first step is to ask yourself how your own biases or preferences might impact the kinds of activities you promote. Are your fond memories of baseball making you push the sport even though your child prefers soccer? Being mindful of your internal motivations is important to avoiding projection. If it is difficult to be objective about this you can also ask close family and friends for feedback. Additionally, by taking time to honor your own interests and passions, you are modeling the importance of doing the things you genuinely care about to your child.
Listen and Learn
Paying attention to the activities your little one gravitates towards or school subjects they take interest in is a great way to hone in on their natural interests. For young children, observe what toys, songs and experiences light them up. For older children you can do this along with engaging in meaningful conversations about what brings them joy or want to try. By fostering open communication and having regular conversations about hopes and dreams you set the scene for your child’s unique development.
Many parents complain that their kids prefer video games and screen time to more active pursuits. It can be a difficult balancing act to allow your child the freedom to do things they like while making sure they participate in diverse and enriching activities. You can encourage curiosity and experimentation by providing your child with a variety of options for fun activities. Maybe they would like to learn to code, bake cookies, organize a lemonade stand, ace a puzzle, or set up a tie dye station in the backyard. By making new activities available to them you will help them to cultivate their interests and creativity. Talk to your child about the benefits of trying new things and seek to compromise about how they spend their time.
To learn more, check out these resources:
This article from Time magazine has some great questions to ask kids of all ages about trying new things