How to help your kids pair their passions with their talents

By: Craig and Marc Kielburger

Author: Canadian Living


How to help your kids pair their passions with their talents

By: Craig and Marc Kielburger
A few years after Free The Children was founded, Craig was invited to appear on a television show. The topic was accomplished youth – but as the show got started, Craig felt anything but.

Seated beside Craig was a 19-year-old pharmaceutical executive. The young man had already completed a master's degree and PhD, and he spoke of how he had scored high on an I.Q. test when he was in the third grade. Since then, parents, teachers and media had all told him he was "gifted."

The host of the show turned to Craig. "Are you gifted?"

"Nope!" he replied.

Craig left the interview with that question on his mind. There was no doubt the teenaged whiz beside him was gifted. But, when he stopped to think about the other people in his life, he realized they were gifted, too. Every day he met young people who were using their skills in art, design, sports, anything to help make a difference.

This quick look made Craig realize that everyone has something to offer. It's only society that limits the definition of "gifted" to those who stand out in academics or sports. These are incredible areas for kids to excel in, but when we broaden the definition and encourage kids to share all of their individual talents with the world, the possibilities to boost their self-confidence and create change are endless.

We boil this down to an equation: Issue + Gift = Better World. Most of us are aware of the old MBA=BMW truism, but we at Free The Children think the former equation adds up to something much better – and parents are crucial to helping it along.

The first part of this equation involves helping your kid find an issue they are passionate about. This can be something that sparks their interest, something they saw as wrong and decided they needed to do something about. Any parent can encourage this by discussing headlines, pointing out things of interest and helping their child stop, look and listen to what's happening around them.

Page 1 of 2 – Craig and Marc's tips for parents on page 2.
We've come across hundreds of young activists who found their passion in unique ways – usually by questioning something they have seen or heard. When parents are there to gently guide or encourage, their kids find an issue they deeply care about.

The second part of the equation – your gift – is also critical. As Craig discovered in that television interview, everyone has a gift. Some people have the ability to pick up a language. Others can create beautiful works of art. Still others are inherently good listeners and their gift of compassion and empathy is a remarkable contribution to the world.

Whatever your gift, when you apply it to an issue you believe in, we think you'll quickly find this can lead to a better world.

The outcomes of this equation are limitless because there are an infinite number of issues and gifts that can be plugged in. That child who is innately good at picking up on language might help a new immigrant settle in their community. An artist might create posters about their cause to put up around school, while your sports star organizes a students-versus-teachers event where the entry fee is a can of food. Listening skills are priceless when your child volunteers at a peer-counseling group.

By nurturing your child's gift and helping them put it into action through a cause they believe in, you can help boost their self-confidence. When you child creates change in their world, they can see for themselves what you already know – that they are truly gifted and have much to offer.

You don't have to be gifted at math to remember this: Issue + gift = better world.  

Tips for parents:

1. Broaden your definition: Of course your child is gifted. Help them discover their talents by looking beyond academics and sports to other qualities that are truly valued.

2. Issue + gift = better world: Show your kids how to pair their passions with their talents. Then help them start making a difference.

3. Give encouragement: Be aware that your kids might get discouraged along the way. Always be there to remind them why they got involved in the first place.

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How to help your kids pair their passions with their talents