Parenting teens: Tips for building a hopeful future

Helping your teen find their spark can put them on the path to a hopeful future.

Parenting teens today is more of a challenge than it has ever been. This generation is growing up facing overwhelming national and international crises’ like global warming, terrorism, war, financial insecurity and high unemployment. With an ever-changing world, how can parents help their teens to succeed?

Dr. Peter Benson, a leading expert on adolescence, describes a systematic approach to helping teens discover their unique gifts, or “sparks”. Sparks, as defined by Dr. Benson, are hidden flames that tap into a teen’s true passion. They come from inside and motivate and inspire. Sparks can be musical, athletic, intellectual, academic, and relational – from playing the violin to working with children. They are not only about what teens like to do, but a prime source of meaning, self-directed action, and purpose in their lives. A spark has the potential to make the world a better place for others.

All kids have sparks, which enable them to thrive in a changing world. It helps to put them on the path to a hopeful future. Teens with sparks have higher grades in school, are more likely to be socially competent, healthy and to volunteer. They have a sense of purpose and are less likely to experience depression or engage in acts of violence.

This five step approach, based on new research with thousands of teens and parents, works with all families no matter what their economic status, parenting situation or ethnic background.

  1. Recognize the power of sparks
  2. Know your own teenager
  3. Help discover and reveal your teen’s sparks
  4. Be the captain of your teen’s spark team
  5. Keep your teen’s spark lit

Parents can help their children find their sparks. Start by listening closely to what genuinely excites your teen. Watch what their teens do in their free time. Are they reading, surfing the internet, banging a drum or drawing cartoons? Watch carefully for your child’s strengths and temperament. Begin by really looking at their uniqueness and seeing them as a gift to the world. Finally, as a parent, recognize your vital part in developing sparks which in turn are crucial to your teen’s happiness and success.

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