What lights a fire? A spark, of course! And lighting a fire of passion, enthusiasm and interest in your kids is one of the best gifts you can give them. It sounds great, but what exactly is a spark and how can you encourage one?
What Is a Spark?
A spark is an innate affinity for a certain activity or topic. Sparks are different for everyone. Think about your own interests or activities you enjoy. You might like solving puzzles, riding horses, or tinkering with models. Sparks are passions that engage us and inspire us to learn, do or become more.
Sparks usually fall into three categories:
- An innate ability, talent or skill
- An interest or passion
- A special quality or trait
Why Are Sparks Important?
You’ve probably heard of different personality traits like introversion and extroversion. When we have to navigate situations where we must use a trait that doesn’t come naturally to us, it can drain our energy. In contrast, spending time using our natural traits is rewarding and can recharge us. The same is true for our sparks.
Sparks allow children and adults to express their personalities and help create a sense of purpose and wellbeing. The younger a person is when they explore, identify and build their sparks, the healthier — physically and psychologically — they tend to be later in life.
In fact, research from the Search Institute on sparks has found youth who have an opportunity to explore sparks and the support to develop them:
- Achieve higher grades
- Feel a greater sense of purpose
- Are physically healthier
- Are more socially adept
- Are less likely to skip school
- Are more altruistic
How to Encourage Sparks
The first step in encouraging a spark is to become aware of it! There can be a big disconnect in spark awareness. One study found that among 2,000 parents and their teenagers:
- 43 percent didn’t agree on the teenager’s spark
- 31 percent couldn’t identify a spark
- 26 percent agreed on the spark
Building awareness and support can have a positive impact on your children’s futures! There are several ways you can explore and encourage sparks.
- Talk about sparks. Ask your children when they feel most engaged. Ask about what they love to do. Listen to their voices and the words they use to describe different activities. They might talk faster, smile more or use lots of excited language when they’re talking about a spark. Help empower them to identify their own sparks.
- Share your own sparks. Tell your children about interests you had at their age and describe what you enjoyed about those things. If it’s a spark that’s continued to build, you can even share how it’s positively impacted your life.
- Discuss sparks in others. Talk about family, friends or neighbors and things they love to do. You can also talk about sparks you see in characters in movies, TV shows or books.
- Try different activities. There are lots of potential sparks out there! Your children might not have found theirs. Explore different activities and see which ones they rave about. This could be anything from visiting a zoo to baking to stargazing.
- Stoke the fire. When you find a spark that seems to light up your children, encourage it. Ask questions about it. Get books about it. Find activities related to it. Visit places that involve their spark. Sign them up for a class or workshop.
And, stay on the lookout. Sparks can change over time, so it’s important to keep exploring and encouraging sparks at all different stages. That includes you! Exploring sparks as a family can be a great bonding experience.