We all have God-given gifts or talents and our children are no different. What is your child good at? What does your child love to do? What does your child gravitate towards? What do friends and relations refer to when they talk about your child? All children have an ability that sets them apart if only we can identify it early. What is it?
Does your little girl have a heavenly voice and stage presence? Does your son have a knack for creative writing or playing the piano? Does your child make people laugh? Is he or she precocious? Are they 5 going on 55? Talent can appear in so many different forms, but usually needs a parent to be proactive and focused about drawing it out.
If your child naturally picks up a paint-brush or always gravitates towards the piano, is always singing or performing acting skits for the family, or does maths tests just for fun, you could be on to something. They may even be terrible at it for the moment, but be patient!
A talent or skill needs opportunities to flourish or it will remain supressed during the formative years; after this special time it may be too late for it to be developed to its full potential. By providing opportunities, your child’s talent can blossom. Introduce different experiences and activities at home; chess, piano, coding, photography, painting, etc. Extra curricular activities in school provide some great opportunities and should be a consideration in your choice of a school.
Praise and encourage
Yes he makes a mess with the paint brush, or she burns all the cookies but is not deterred and still wants to bake. Show how proud you are of the effort. Praising effort not only nurtures your child’s talent but it also builds their self-esteem and makes them want to do even better. Show their talent off to God Parents, friends and relations, (if it doesn’t embarrass them; it usually does!). It can be a little tedious and off putting for a child, if you are the only one involved. School teachers are often great allies, as they provide easy openings to showcase talent.
Invest in the talent
After some pain, tears, and time, you just know in your gut that this may be something really special. For serious development, try to broaden your child’s understanding of their craft or subject. It will take some investing in equipment, private tuition, holiday camps, etc. This will guide and inspire them If she is a budding actor, take her to theatre productions, if it’s swimming, to local and even international meets. Open all the doors you can whilst giving equal focus to academic work; it will always matter.
Competitions are a great way of further developing a talent or skill. The preparation for a significant competition naturally requires more practice and focus. Other benefits are the performance experience, getting noticed through exposure to a wider audience, feedback from experts, scholarship and new opportunities for further performance.
It’s not about you
Don’t force your own passion onto your child. Just because you were in the First 11, doesn’t mean your child will be in the Olympics. Of course it can be heart breaking if you’ve been boasting or showing off about your child’s prowess in gymnastics or the double bass, and they want to give it up! Imagine your little girl, the star ballerina in her pink tutu; in your mind you can already see her as the principal dancer in “Swan Lake” at London’s West End someday; she then throws it all away to join the school wrestling team!
Is your child enjoying it?
Your child will not enjoy it all the time. This is where your patience can be really tested. You might need to force things for a while, but before it becomes too much, it might be worth taking a break for a period and re-introducing with a gentler approach. Be careful; this is where many children drop an instrument or a sport permanently. By pausing an activity, your child might realise they actually miss it. On the other hand they may discover something totally different, that they love with a passion and wish to pursue.
Be mindful of pressure
As parents (especially Nigerian parents) we can load our children’s schedules with far too much activity; multiple classes, practices, sports meets, competitions etc. Too much pressure can be negative. Children do need time to just be or to simply explore. Structure does have its place, but it is through experiencing different things that a child’s interests will emerge. They do need down time to rest or do nothing. With greater awareness about mental illness we must be conscious of the strong link with the excessive pressure in this competitive world that our children face. Lets not add to it.