In a scene straight from an after-school television special, a family seeped in sports tradition welcomes a son with a growth hormone deficiency. The youth is noticeably shorter than his peers (and younger sisters), and although he has an avid interest in sports, he does not have the aptitude to play. He does what was, to this point, unthinkable – discovered and developed an interest in drama and music. This was especially hard on his father, who wanted his only son to follow in his footsteps on the football field and basketball court.
Another family, in a scene mirroring “Mr. Holland’s Opus,” with musician parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, welcomed the first of a new generation (expecting more musical talent) and discovered her deafness. This came as much as a blow to this family as the one above.
When your teen has an interest or talent that does not fit your paradigm of what is in the family tradition (boys and dance, etc.), there are ways to support your teen and encourage the development of their talent and their character. Showing your support for their interest or talent (whatever that may be) allows your teen to express their individual tastes and to develop the character traits of self discipline and self-mastery which come with the active pursuit of a dream.
1. Don’t be the stage parent or sideline embarrassment
While teens want your support and encouragement, this can go too far. If your daughter does not get the lead in the school musical, let that go. Offer her a shoulder and allow her to vent about her frustration and hurt, but let it stop there. Don’t push your teen too hard into their arena; they need to have control of this aspect of their lives. Let them weather any disappointment and know that no matter what happens, which string of the team they are playing, or is they miss a note in the solo, that you care for them unconditionally.
2. Don’t define your teen by their talent
When talking to or about your teen, remember that they are more than their talent. Let them become a well-rounded individual, learning about themselves and all of their talents and gifts.
3. Don’t be a fair weather fan
When your teen has a losing season, fumbles the ball or misses a line, still support them. Teens want your respect, love and support, no matter the score or quality of the performance.
4. Don’t live your glory days through your child
This is hard for many parents, especially the ones in the examples above. Your teen may have different talents than you have. If your teen does share your interests and talents, this is special since there is a built-in common interest. However, don’t be like one of those people that simply cannot allow others to have a moment of glory and constantly live their dreams vicariously through others. Give your child your insight and let your child shine on his or her own.
Dr. A. Lynn Scoresby is the founder and president of www.firstanswers.com, www.achievementsynchrony.com, and www.6innovations.com. He has been a marriage and family psychologist for more than 35 years and published more than 20 books/training programs.