Supporting a tween's passion can yield self-confidence and pride.

Supporting a tween's passion can yield self-confidence and pride.

The tween years are a time when kids tend to try out many different activities. As kids became more able bodied and competent, many parents sign their kids up for as many offerings as possible. It is not uncommon to find kids who are involved in a multitude of activities including sports, the arts, and academic pursuits. Early tweens seem to enjoy all the action. It feels good to be involved.

As tweens get closer to becoming teens however, there is often a shift in their interests. Older tweens begin to hone in on a few activities that they enjoy, while their focus on other pursuits start to wane.

This can be a trying time for parents who may misinterpret their tween’s new lackluster attitude toward some activities as a sign of laziness or even social retreat. In reality however, this evolution is quite normal. Tweens tend to stay with the activities they enjoy the most. Usually these are the undertakings at which they feel most competent and confident.

It is during these years that a subset of kids identifies a passion. This can be both exciting and a bit scary for parents who strive to ensure that their child is well rounded. When a child identifies a true passion, it is quite common for her to immerse herself wholeheartedly in the pursuit of this activity at the expense of all others.

Finding a passion during the tween years can be a transformative experience. Few things can combat the feelings of awkwardness often associated with the tween years. Identifying a passionate pursuit is a sure way to encourage a tween to feel empowered and secure. This is true of course, as long as a tween is passionate for the right reasons. There are in fact two general types of passion. The first-harmonious passion-develops when an individual experiences an internal desire to pursue an activity. On the contrary, the second type-obsessive passion-is motivated by outside forces-a desire to please others or to attain a certain status that is important to building an individual’s self-esteem. Because harmonious passion is self-generated from within it is associated with positive effects on self-esteem and happiness. Obsessive passion on the contrary is associated with negative effects on self-esteem and can lead to unhappiness.

Parents play a pivotal role in helping their tween pursue a passion.  Parents are charged with providing tangible support for their tweens which may include ensuring that their child has the appropriate equipment; arranging lesson; and/or transporting their tween to practices, games, events and/or competitions. The importance of the emotional support parents provide their tweens cannot be underscored enough. Parents are also charged with ensuring that a tween’s motivation for pursuing a passion is driven by an internal desire to engage in a given activity. Tweens who invest themselves in an activity because they feel obligated due to pushy, albeit well-meaning parents, are destined to experience the negative effects of obsessive passion at a time in their lives when their egos are very vulnerable.

During the tween years kids are especially beholden to their parent’s influences. How their parents think and feel often matters more than many parents may realize. This tender time in a child’s life is often fraught with feelings of uncertainty. The tween years are marked by a new awareness of the world at large. Tweens turn to their parents to help them understand the outside world. Tweens seek support and guidance from their parents.

The positive pay-off of supporting a tween’s passion is truly priceless. Few things feel better than engaging in a beloved activity.  The sense of confidence, competence and security that comes with pursuing a passion is sure formula for helping a tween feel successful.

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