14 Ways to Help Your Student Find Their Interests & Passions

parent tip Dec 23, 2020

Have you ever asked your teen what they’re interested in, only to get noncommittal answers or a shrug of their shoulders? This is pretty common, and it doesn’t mean your student doesn’t have anything they care about. It usually just means they haven’t had enough experiences to know what they like and what they don’t!

So how can you help your student figure out their interests and passions? There are tons of ways to encourage them to try new things. We’ve rounded up a bunch of ideas in three different categories to help you brainstorm ways to help your teen. 

Go to New Places

New places are full of new experiences and ideas. You never know what you’ll learn or who you’ll meet. And while going new places often means “travel extensively abroad,” we definitely don’t think that’s the case - you can find new places to experience right near you. 

Here are some ways to go new places with your teen: 

  • Travel to a new city, either nearby or far away, for a vacation. Let your teen explore the culture, food, and history of this new locale. 
  • Attend events or lectures at local colleges and universities. Many of these will be free, and can expose your teen not just to new ideas, but also to a college environment. 
  • Visit a local museum. Maybe your teen won’t get really into local history, but smaller museums are often staffed by chatty, knowledgeable people. 
  • Try a new hike or outdoor trail. Let your teen navigate and lead the way. 

Volunteer

It’s hard to overstate just how many great benefits there are to volunteering. Your teen can learn about new issues or types of work, start gaining practical skills, and meet new people - all while doing some good in the world. 

Here’s how to help your teen volunteer - or even volunteer with them!

  • Visit a nursing home or senior center. Senior citizens are often happy to talk and share their stories, and your teen can benefit from their years of wisdom. 
  • Canvass for a local election. Not only can you spark their civic engagement, but you’ll meet all kinds of people in this line of work. 
  • Join a park or beach clean up. Picking up trash isn’t the most glamorous work, but it’s a great way to care for nature while meeting new people. 
  • Tutor elementary or middle school-aged kids. If your teen has any inclination toward working with kids, tutoring is a great way to figure out if a teaching career is right for them. 
  • Help out at a hospital. They won’t get any medical experience, but being in a healthcare environment can teach your teen a lot about what they’re comfortable with. 
  • Walk dogs at an animal shelter. Who doesn’t love playing with puppies? 

Volunteering is an all-around win for everyone involved, so see what options motivate your teen. 

Learn Something New

After a long day at school, your teen might not want to learn anything else - so you’ll have to make it fun. Choose something completely different from what they do in any of their classes, and let them take the lead. 

Here are a few ways to learn something new with your teen: 

  • Teach them what you know. This could be cooking, gardening, woodworking, or anything else that you’re good at. As a bonus, you’ll spend quality time with your student. 
  • Get a family friend to help. If you have a relative or close friend who is amazing at something, see if they’ll come over and teach your teen their skills. It might be more exciting than learning from their parents. 
  • Subscribe to Skillshare or a similar site. There are tons of online video classes available for free or for a very low subscription cost. Many of these are taught by people who are at the top of their field. Encourage your teen to pick one that sounds interesting, or watch the first lesson of several different classes to get a feel for what’s out there. 
  • Attend a workshop. Libraries, local craft stores, and many other locations offer workshops and classes on all kinds of topics. It’s a great way to learn a new skill and meet new people. 

How to Get Your Teen Excited to Find Their Interests & Passions

After reading this list, you might be thinking, “These sound awesome, but there’s no way my teen will do any of this willingly!” You might be right, but you also might be surprised at how easily you can coax your student into trying something new. 

To best do this, remember not to force it. Your student needs to feel independent and mature, and prescribing what they’ll do and how they’ll do it is likely to backfire. Give them options, and rope them into your planning. 

For example, if you’re planning a day trip to a nearby city, recruit your teen to plan it. Give them a time frame and a budget, and let them decide what you’ll do and when. They’ll need to find directions, plan for parking, choose an activity, decide what to do about food, and all sorts of other things. This process alone will teach them a lot!

Help Your Student Learn About Themselves

It can be tough to get your teen to expand their horizons, but with a little encouragement from you, you just might see them come out of their shell. Give them independence and control over what they do - try not to force it! A little push toward something new could turn into a brand new hobby, volunteer role, or even a full-fledged career path. 


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