How to help your teenager find her niche
Teens can sometimes seem lackadaisical, directionless, and meandering — and sometimes they are. That’s totally fine; this is the time in life to observe, drift a bit, try things on for size and shrug them off it’s not a good fit.
A hands-off approach is good, but where does that leave the parent who wants to help guide their daughter down a productive and rewarding path? It’s a balancing act for sure but with some good methods you can help your teen find her niche.
Avoid big questions
“What is your purpose?”
“Tell me what you’re most passionate about in life?”
People of any age who would find these questions daunting, so it’s probably a bit much to expect a teenager to come up with concise, well-defined answers to them.
Chances are, they don’t know yet — and they shouldn’t be made to feel self-conscious about not knowing. That will only hamper curiosity, trying things for the sake of trying. The big thing a teen needs to accumulate is experience. Decisions are a lot easier when they’re based around knowledge.
Start a dialogue
This isn’t to say that questions are bad. Just make them smaller, and more specific:
“Have you ever wanted to go horseback riding?”
“Remember when you did swim lessons as a little girl? Maybe you’d like a membership to the Y — they’ve got a great pool.”
Or, “I’m going to the library. Want to come with?”
Remind your teen of interests. Invite her to interesting things. Encourage her without cajoling her. And then, listen. That’s the most important part of any conversation.
Let her know she is a difference maker
Teenagers want to be of value and worth, like we all do. That’s not a five-minute process, and it involves a lot of trial and error.
Volunteering is a fabulous idea for a teen. Encourage it. Retirement centers, after-school literacy programs for smaller children, park cleanup, animal shelters — these are all great opportunities to be of service and for her to learn that she can be a difference maker. There are ample groups, organizations and individuals who could use the help. It can be a true revelation for a young adult to see that others need her.
The rewards of this can be exponential. There is the rewarding feeling of helping others. Self-esteem and self-confidence will rise. She can be educated about others’ experiences, and that helps develop empathy.
Helping your teen find her niche involves listening without putting her on the spot. It means encouraging and inviting without hectoring. It means pointing her in the right direction, without pushing her. Surround a young adult with the right opportunities and prompts, and chances are she’ll take wing from there.