Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Helping Children Get A Hobby

While you should not push your child into a hobby if he or she is not interested, you should be willing to give your child the chance to explore hobbies. There is a fine line for parents between pushing too much and encouraging. In the realm of hobbies, however, I believe that parents must introduce certain ideas to their children. If the children are not interested, so be it, but it is important to at least give them the opportunity. How do you do it?

First, think about what your family does for fun. Think about what you and your partner did before you had children. If you enjoyed going to listen to jazz music, then you may want to start there. Buy some jazz records meant for children. Educate your children about jazz musicians and the history of the genre. Take them to a concert.

If you and your partner rode your bikes on trails often, that is a hobby you can easily transition into a family hobby, even if you have to modify the length of the trips. You should begin with what you enjoy for a couple of reasons. First it will help you to maintain your sense of identity because you will find that you can still enjoy the same activities as before you had children. You also will find that your children will be excited about many of the same activities you enjoy. Just be sure that you do not force your child to do something that makes him or her uncomfortable. While white water rafting may be for you, it may not be for your child.

Take note of what your child does seem to enjoy. Does he keep mentioning a love of flowers? Help him to start his own small flower garden. Is she interested in the stars and how they are arranged? Buy her a telescope and check out the constellations together. Sometimes your children will not tell you that they want to pursue something either because they are embarrassed or because they do not realize they could make more of their interest. It is your responsibility to make sure that you recognize those interests and try to make something of them.

If your child brings a hobby to you, then you should be sure that he or she wants to participate. Some parents require a written (or verbal for little ones) statement of why a topic is interesting. I think that is going a bit far unless you have a child with a history of jumping from one project to another. Instead you can ask your child in a more informal way why a hobby is interesting. If the proposed hobby is something that you really cannot see your child doing, do not say so directly. You may want to try to redirect the hobby.

For example, I wanted to play softball. Actually, I did one season, and it was a disaster. Still I enjoyed being a spectator, and what I enjoyed even more was the ability to record the plays in baseball games for our local little league. It was a way to still be in the game while playing to my strengths. It helped me to maintain a connection with the hobby even though I could not formally participate in it. You can try this type of redirection with your child if you see a problem with the chosen hobby.

Ultimately as a parent you should be supportive. Help your children to understand that you are there for them. That does not mean that you should not teach responsibility, such as requiring them to earn some of the money for equipment. It does, however, mean that you should not dismiss hobby ideas because it is not something that interests you or not something that you want for your child (barring moral opposition, of course). Instead do your best to be supportive and to learn about the hobby along with your children. Make an effort to get your child in contact with other people who participate in the hobby and to help make it a positive part of her or his life. A childhood hobby could go away quickly, or it could become a lifelong love.

By Julia Mercer

No comments: