Supporting our children in finding purpose & meaning
“Who am I?” and “What do I want to be when I grow up?” may be two of the most commonly asked questions of our children from when they begin to communicate with the world. And the answer can be complicated and change often as children grow into their lives with experiences.
Research and science have allowed us the benefit of understanding the importance of having a purpose, or meaning, in life. We know that when a person works towards a purpose or is a part of meaningful activities, he/she tends to experience higher levels of self-confidence, interest, happiness, energy and persistence. Whereas when a person is involved in activities that does not have any meaning for them, they tend to feel stress, anxiety, low moods and even depression. It follows that cultivating purpose in children and guiding them to find personal meaning in their activities can establish a pattern of thought and behaviour that will help them in their journey towards happiness and success.
A three stepped approach to helping our children finding meaning in their choices:
Self-determination – Talk about the question of “who I am” and listen to them as they describe what they value most regarding people, experiences and places. A good way to do this is to ask them to use the most viewed photos, sites, pages, people on their smartphone. This can indicate interest and even show what they are good at.
Develop the “be” goals – help children to construct a statement of purpose that is based on the list of what interests them and what they are good at. They may say they want to “be close to family” or they may want to “be a doctor”. Both are part of their purpose.
Action goals – these are directly linked to support the “be” goals through identifying the steps they need to take to become the person who achieves their purpose.
Guiding children through this process does not happen over-night, it’s about having frequent conversations, accepting that their views and opinions are different, and allowing them to express themselves freely. It takes patience, practice, and giving them autonomy. But the end result is a child who is happy, successful and resilient.