Finding a talent
Developing skills and interests is a sure way to build self-esteem, says this school counsellor.
The happiest adults I know are the ones who are doing what they love and are best suited to. It need not even be anything too arduous, since anything you love can translate into a job.

Some children, the lucky ones perhaps, seem to know from an early age what career they wish to pursue, and so throughout their childhood can work towards that goal. For others it is not so obvious, and they may need help.

I often hear of teachers giving children an exercise to write down a list of things they are good at, and it is always so sad to discover the child who can't think of anything to say. Every child is good at something of real value, they just need to find out what it is and to believe in themselves.

It may not be as obvious as academic excellence or sporting prowess, but can be just as valuable. It may be an ability to make people laugh, or to support them when they have problems.

Any successful team draws on varied talents and strengths. One may have the vision and drive, but one also needs someone with the personality to market the product, another who is happy to deal with the admin and another still may contribute by caring for everyone and maintaining a bright and happy working atmosphere.

What can parents do?

So how can parents help children develop their talents? Most of all we need to carefully observe children in different situations to notice what interests them and how they respond to what is presented to them.

What comes most naturally to them?
What inspires and challenges them?
What brings out the best in them?

From there, we can then provide as many opportunities as possible for them to develop that interest.

Children desperately need individual attention from their parents, and a day out with a parent doing something that is of real interest to them is a great way to foster a growing talent. One child might love to spend an afternoon hitting balls at the golf driving range, while another would prefer to visit art galleries. It is not often that all the children in one family will enjoy the same kind of outings.

Descriptive praise is another wonderful way to recognise and affirm skills and talents. For example you might notice that even when things don't go a child's way, he or she is able to persist. To this end saying something like, ‘I was watching you in that tennis match, and even though your opponent was so good, you never gave up and played your absolute best. I really admire your determination,’ is of enormous value.

Praise can often mean identifying a positive where the child might not. For example: ‘I have noticed when your friends come round and get into a fight, that you are able to keep your cool, and help the group sort out their differences. You have a real talent for mediation.’

It could also help to identify mentors in the field in which children show an interest, and provide opportunities for them to spend time with these people. Such encounters can have a very powerful effect, particularly if the mentor is really skilled and enthusiastic about their work.

A child who is given the chance to build on their talents will build self esteem at the same time: a winning combination for future success.

Does every child have a talent? How do you encourage them?

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