Lesson 10: Finding a Purpose in Life

The past nine weeks have shed some light on various life skills that adolescents need to acquire in order to become successful and productive members of society. It is critical for parents to understand that they play a key role in the following areas: teaching their children the importance of setting personal goals, being organized planners, learning how to be independent, attaining academic skills, maintaining a healthy lifestyle, being emotionally aware, taking time to self reflect, establishing social skills, sizing up interpersonal situations, sustaining positive relationships as well as preserving values, moral behavior, integrity and character.

The last skill to be addressed is helping adolescents find a purpose. Adolescence is a time when teens are searching for a sense of identity and their purpose in life. They are eager to explore new experiences, and identify with meaningful people, places and things. Research suggests that adolescents who seek purpose report higher life satisfaction, levels of happiness, and perhaps even better physical health.

William Damon, the director of the Stanford Center on Adolescence, defines purpose as “a stable and generalized intention to accomplish something that is at the same time meaningful to the self and consequential for the world beyond the self.” This is when teens are transitioning from simply being someone’s child to becoming his or her own person. Think of it as learning to ‘march to the beat of their own drum’.

As parents, you can help guide your teens as they are trying to determine their purpose in life. Give them opportunities to travel, explore different cultures and meet new people. Have them volunteer with an organization or group that may be outside of their comfort zone, but will possibly guide them toward meaningful experiences. Consider volunteering with soup kitchens, Habitat for Humanity, Relay for Life, animal rescue facilities, nursing homes, hospitals, schools, or churches. DoSomething.org has various campaigns that promote a global movement for good. The blog, teenlife.com, also has several youth related community service suggestions that could provide access to new ideas and interactions.

As discussed over the course of this life skills series, parents are continually challenged to be patient, positive role models for their teens. Teach them how to cope with adversities and place value on a creating a meaningful life. If parents don’t step up, then think about who will. Do you want your adolescent to learn from positive examples or from unethical, immoral, and unsuccessful influences? When in need or doubt, don’t be afraid to ask for help. There are many resources available from school counselors or other trusted professionals.

John F. Kennedy said, “efforts and courage are not enough without purpose and direction”. As we have now reached the end of this series, please remember that teaching life skill lessons to adolescents begins at home. Of course, external stimuli, situations, and events will influence the development of teens from time to time. However, it is up to parents to create the foundation upon which to build healthy, happy, productive, and successful young adults. Life is much like a highway with several twists and turns. Steer your young adolescent in the right direction, stay on course and engage in happy travels!

Life Skills has been a 10- week series aimed to help prepare adolescents for adulthood.

Amanda can be reached at cbnews@newszap.com

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