Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Let Your Teen Think Out Of The Box

Last week I was at the Sundance Film Festival. Yes I know I'm cool! Anyway, while I was there I had the opportunity to speak with many young adults who had films at the festival. Films that were made on a shoestring, but with passion and creativity galore. Their stories of how they came to be at this place and at this time in their lives were filled with anecdotes of supportive parents, indulging them as children to follow their dreams. Impractical as they may have seemed. They talked of how their parents never discouraged them from fulfilling their dreams as filmmakers, actors or directors. Rather than say, "well how can you make a living doing that?" Their parents helped them to find ways to work at, develop skills in and develop their passion. Though they all talked about living on no money, in small and cramped apartments, no one was complaining. it made their success that much sweeter. Sundance was a family affair, with beaming parents and grateful children.

Just after returning home, I was listening to a story on This American Life. A young man, now in his 30's told a story of an abandoned house he and his friends discovered at age 13 in a small town in New Hampshire.  It seemed whoever had lived in this house had left it completely in tack, the morning coffee cup still on the counter,  and the day's newspapers still on the dining room table, dated 1933. These boys had stumbled on a treasure trove of history. The storyteller spoke of his obsession with this house, returning to it during his family's summer vacations. Taking letters and artifacts after each visit, trying to figure out who this family was and why they might have left so abruptly. During one summer, his mother discovered her son's obsession. Worried that he was in danger she made him take her to the house. It was at this point the mother had a choice. She could have chastised her son's recklessness, messing around private property, and forbid him to ever go again. But Instead, she recognized that this was not just a nosy boy, looking for cheap thrills, but a boy who was really interested in this family,  in the times in which they lived and what had happened to them. Together, they went to cemeteries looking for family members dead and and buried, went to the town hall to look at real estate records, and researched the names they had found on letters and documents. This mom recognized a passion in her son for getting to the heart of a story, and gave him a pathway towards discovery. This young man is now a filmmaker/journalist. And this story was his way of going back to his 13 year boyhood and finishing what he had started.

What resonated in me with both Sundance and this journalist is that their parents recognized early on who their kids were, and what turned them on. And though their parents may have quietly worried how their kids would be able to support themselves as adults with these "cockamany" ideas, they kept those worries to themselves.  Rather than encourage their kids to do the status quo, they gave their kids the freedom to explore and follow their true passions.

Parents often tell me that they are worried that their kids don't seem interested in anything. But maybe the "anythings" they are looking for are only those "things" that all the other kids seem to be doing like sports or the school play. There are so may options that are out there, and if you look closely enough at your teen and see what gives them real joy in life, you can help them find a pathway to that joy!

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