Mandatory quarantining doesn’t have to be a bad thing; it can have its positives. Why not use it as a time to discover what makes your teen unique and uncover their innate brilliance?
Here’s the thing: your teen isn’t supposed to be great at everything. Nor are they supposed to be like any other person in the history of the world.
They possess a unique set of gifts, talents and affinities. Using these gifts is what will bring them professional success and personal pleasure
throughout their life.
The good news is this skill-set never goes away. The bad news is that as children grow up, school work, extra-curricular involvements, clubs, chores, jobs, and other extraneous commitments make demands on their time and their skill set eventually gets covered up.
Then, when the inevitable time comes to decide on college and a career, they are completely overwhelmed because they have no idea who they are and what they would like to do with their life. Even worse, when they enter their 40’s or 50’s, life satisfaction drops to an all-time low because they’ve been in the wrong, unfulfilling career.
So why not use this quarantine to do some reconnaissance and discover your teen’s innate greatness?
If you are wondering how to do this, here are three questions to help you start unearthing what makes your teen unique and special.
What does your teen do in their free time?
The biggest indicator of gifts is what your teen is gravitating to in their free time. We humans naturally gravitate to our affinities. Here are a few activities to get you started, but this list is really just to get your mind moving.
- Organize closets
- Create a new language or symbols
- Build a structure out of wood
- Nurture a pet
- Design a home on paper
- Redecorate a room
- Develop a new product
- Draw, color, paint
- Make up games
- Play a game
- Imagine a different way to do something
- Find a better way to do something
- Help strangers
- Raise money
- Start a business or non-profit
It’s interesting, you may see that when given free time, your teen will actually return to activities they used to do as a young child. Only now, those activities take on a more mature form.
For example, a four year old who built Legos may now be world-building on video games. Or that natural-born teacher who played school in front of a line of stuffed animals now Zooms with friends and instructs them on how to do something.
Now, it is time to think deeper and try to isolate the gift your teen is nurturing while doing these activities.
For example, while growing up, my little sister and I made up a game we called Airport. We sat at the Customer Service Desk and she took care of all the animals that came through the airport while I helped people figure out their flights and get to where they were supposed to be. So it’s
no surprise that today my sister lives in Montana around droves of animals, while I help people figure out where they are supposed to be in life. You get the idea, right?
Discover what makes your teen unique by looking at what role they play in the family
When your family is playing games, having family time or doing chores, what role does your teen prefer? Again, this list could be endless, but here are some ideas.
- The banker in Monoply
- Recorder of information or data
- Music maker
- Game plan originator
- Task completer
- Gatherer (of people or supplies?)
- Planner of meals or activities
- Schedule maker
- Big idea maker
What is your teen’s world really about?
Go ahead; in this case, it is ok to snoop!
Their bedroom tells their story. What are their awards? In what area have they achieved recognition for doing something well?
I’m not referring to the standard-issue, team participation trophies, ribbons and certificates. Look beyond that. Find what they’ve earned through hard work, determination, or a special skill.
- Most Spirited at summer camp
- A specific academic award at school
- The Coach’s Awards for MVP
- Citizenship Award
- Spelling bee
- Most signatures collected for Student Government
- Best interviewer for history project
- Physical Fitness Award
- Best musician
What are their collections? This is them to their core.
- Figurines (of what?)
- Travel books
- Fashion magazines
- Sports memorabilia
- Old maps of Europe
- Solar system posters
- Pictures of animals
- Posters of musicians
- Sewing thimbles
What are they watching, reading and listening to? This says so much about their interests.
- Binge-watching a specific TV show
- A particular genre of movie
- Types of YouTube videos
- Specific subject books
- Scouring certain blogs
- Solving alongside detective shows
- Lifestyle shows
- Food Network
- Business news
- Medical programming
- DYI shows
- Crime or mystery solving
- Shark Tank
- Science experiment
Over and over again, you will begin to see the patterns of what they love to do. Great! You’re onto something.
What happens once you know what makes your teen unique?
Once you have this vital information, you can start a conversation with you teen.
Try saying something like, “I’ve figured out something very important about you”. Or, “I’ve figured out what makes you so great”.
Explain what you’ve observed. Then, ask open-ended questions to get them thinking about their trajectory:
- If you had all the money in the world, what would you do?
- What would you do if you knew you could do anything and never fail?
- If you had all the money and resources you ever needed and everything went your way . . .
- Where do you want to be in ten years?
Sustenance and unconditional love aside, the best thing we can give our teens is a strong sense of self. Granting them self-confidence and self-assureness of who they are will help lead them to make positive future decisions and the opportunity to experience immense life satisfaction.
As the next few ever-important, life-shaping years unfold, they will be better equipped to make informed decisions about their life’s trajectory. And also, as so many opportunities begin to arise, knowing what makes your teen unique will help you know what direction to guide them toward.
Jessica DeHart is a native-Atlantan who lives with her husband. They survived raising three sons who were only 13 months apart (a singleton, then twins). She began A Brilliant Life Foundation, a nonprofit that empowers middle schoolers, young adults, and emerging adults to be all they were created to be. Jessica was a Contributing Editor to Real Girl Magazine, and earned and MFA at NYU.