Parents & Enrichment Programs

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pat_Smith_ond17By Dr. Patricia H. Smith 

I recently read an article about students who were awarded college athletic scholarships for their talents in competitive bass fishing. I spoke with one of the moms of the scholarship winners and she shared that her son has always loved fishing.

Parents are eager to help their children become outstanding at something. Therefore, parents tend to sign their kids up for a variety of activities, especially those they feel are going to be important and valuable for college admissions and scholarships.  The reality is that if the child does not have a genuine interest in these activities, it will more than likely lead to disinterest, lack of effort, and eventually become a liability to the student rather than an asset. However, if the interest is passionate and genuine, the student is more likely to excel and thrive in their activities. The child will be in a better position to tell her story or paint a picture about her unique interest, skills, and talents successfully on a college or scholarship essay and application.

It is stated that children don’t usually recognize their own natural abilities, interests, and special talents although they will pursue them instinctively. Parents can play a major role and help a child discover his talents and interests.

Identifying the Talents and Interests

How do you identify and enrich a child’s natural abilities, interests, and special talents? As your child participates in a variety of activities, keep your eyes and ears open to see what motivates your child and gives her energy. A significant step in identifying your child’s talents and interest is to ask: What does my child do well? We can assume that all children have talents, skills, and interest that may be similar or different from their parents or siblings.

A fourth grade teacher said to a student that she believes the student would be a good attorney when he grows up. That teacher recognized the student’s communication, interpersonal and analytical skills. As parents, you also see talents, interests and skills that your child is displaying -for example: caring for animals, woodcarving, gardening, astronomy, or flower arranging.

Not sure how to identify the talents? Solicit the assistance of a professional to help identify your child’s natural talents and interests. These professionals (school counselors or psychologists) have a variety of personality, values and career assessment tools that can be administered, assessed, interpreted and shared with you and your child.

Nurturing the Skills, Talents and Interests

A child’s talents and interests can present themselves in many ways, so you may need to help the child recognize and embrace them. Below are some tips for helping your child grow their talents and interests.

1. Participating in enrichment programs is a wonderful way for the child to learn more about her interest and explore her talents. There are several enrichment programs offered in the United States (colleges/universities, community centers, and high schools) and abroad. Check with your school counselors for a list of enrichment programs. Keep in mind that since this is more of a serious development of your child’s talents, you may need to pay tuition, room and board or travel expenses for these programs.

2. Build a child’s confidence around their interests by supporting his willingness to develop his talents. One parent thought it was extremely dangerous for her son to learn how to skateboard – in fact, she pleaded with her son to pursue another hobby. Eventually, she gave in and supported her son in pursuit of his interest in skateboarding.

3. Show an interest in your child’s talents by asking questions, attending events, learning about the talent, and/or taking the child to see professionals utilizing the desired talents and skills. For example, if a child is interested in astronomy – visiting The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) with your child would be a good move.

4. Beware of every opportunity for your child to demonstrate their talents. If the child is interested in gardening and climate issues, encourage that child to share her interest with the science teacher at her school. There may be an opportunity for your child to start and manage a flower and vegetable garden at the school.

When the time comes for your child to complete the essay on the college application or to apply for scholarships, her response will be inspiring when she can share a personal story about her talents and how they will be significant to her college experiences. In other words, your child will be in a better position to tell a story on her college and scholarship applications in a narrative format that paints a picture of her unique interest, skills, and talents.

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