A forty-something year old dad pages through What Color is Your Parachute, fills out Myers Briggs quizzes online and tries to excavate his true self in order to align it to a future work life that feels more authentic than his current 9-5, plus commute, does.
A multitasking mom tries to discern if her call to being a wife, mother and homemaker can ever fully jive with her family’s need to balance their checkbook. Which gifts and talents – not to mention hours – should she solely dedicate to the home front and which can she justly offer to work?
A couple looks at their child and promises one thing: Your life will be better than mine has been and we will help you thrive as exactly the person you were created to be. They back up that promise by crafting a simple OAR that the child can use to paddle through future currents in life.
What tools do they use to craft that OAR?
Take some time to begin simply observing your child. Note what sparks your child’s interest. What makes him laugh? What sustains his attention? Jot down his favorite topics and activities. Log snippets of what your child does and says during his most contented times.
Not only will this help you see trends in what your child’s natural gifts and talents are, which, in turn will allow you to encourage further development of them, but it could also act as a true treasure trove of self-knowledge once your child reaches an age of discernment about career and calling.
If your child is already at that age, think back to your child’s younger years and try to recall the things that made her special. Did she sing to you during chore time? Did she always want to be your helper? Did she go through reams of paper while doodling? Did she constantly take things apart? Often, these early inclinations offer significant directionals towards later vocational discernment.
Once you begin to notice your child’s natural gifts, acknowledge them. State some of your observations aloud. Comment with equal enthusiasm about both what your child does well and what he simply perseveres at. A desire to maintain effort is sometimes as much of an indicator of calling as an obvious expertise at something.
Encourage your child through action, too. Join your child in her favored pursuits. Model how current interests might pivot to new ones. Surround your child with books, supplies and projects that build upon her observed interests. Support her choices (so long as they cause no physical, spiritual or emotional harm to anyone, of course!) instead of trying to redirect them to what you or society thinks “might be better”.
We each have a story written on our hearts and, perhaps, one of the greatest things a parent can do is to help a child read his own.
Occasionally reflect aloud with your child about what he has been doing and what the effects of it are. Or, write a love letter to your child about it.
Reinforce a mindset that your child’s great love could meet a deep need in this world – even if the how of that need has yet to be determined. This reinforcement can start by simply reflecting the microcosm of the “world” of home:
“When you sing like that, it makes clearing the table go so much quicker. I appreciate you sharing your songs with us.”
“Thank you for volunteering to do that. The way you pitch in with chores helps our home stay organized.”
“That is such an intricate sketch. You really are able to communicate your ideas through drawing.”
“Wow. I could not figure out how to put that back together, but, look at you, you did it so easily. I am glad to have a handyman around the house.”
However, over time, it will likely widen to the greater world. Your child will begin to find ways to share her gifts with a greater audience.
Through noticing your child’s innate gifts, offering unbiased acknowledgment of them and encouraging your child to view them as ways to affect the world around them, you will help your child maintain a strong sense of self.
That strength, will allow your child to navigate through a swirling sea of “you can’t” and “you should” that may swell around him as he makes future vocational choices. It will act as a tool to avert – or at least cut through—career questioning that may arise.
By choosing to O.A.R., you will encourage your child to recognize and expand upon God-given gifts, which will likely lead your child to being and doing exactly as he or she was meant to. Likewise, you may begin to navigate your own vocational questioning a bit more effectively. For, after all, isn’t a part of it to steward your child with love?
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