When I was growing up, most of the kids that I knew in my neighborhood and in my school had some sort of hobby. I enjoyed riding and caring for horses; some of my close friends enjoyed gymnastics, some were into the exercise craze that was brand new back then, and others were amateur DJs who spent hours making ‘mixed tapes’ or buying the newest album. Guy friends played the guitar/were in a garage band, some enjoyed hunting and fishing with friends, and others were ‘car guys’.
Back then it seemed like everyone was into something outside of school and school sports, and most of my peers pursued their own interests outside of their parents’ involvement.
As Mike and I have raised our own children over the past 20+ years, we have noticed that young people are less able or willing to pursue hobbies unique to their passions. Is that because video games and social media have sucked all of the oxygen out of our children’s world to the point that they do not have any free time/down time to investigate or imagine other possibilities? Or are organized sports so ubiquitous and all-encompassing that our children can not see past this ‘hobby’ which has now become a money-making behemoth?
Whatever the reason, we as parents need to be more proactive and intentional in helping our students learn about and experiment with different hobbies, even those that do not match perfectly with our own interests.
One example that we have experienced in our home relates to one of our sons and his interest in ice fishing. Mike does like to fish, but ice fishing was not on his top 10 list. I do not really like fishing and I hate being cold, so I had no interest. In spite of that, we spent some time and effort and a little of bit of money to help our son get started. He now has a group of friends that share his passion for the outdoors and we think this may be a life-long interest of his.
Similarly, we had all of our children take piano lessons for a few years. Two of our adult children still play, while our other three children have not touched a piano key since their final lesson. All of our children have been taught how to cook for themselves; one of our children could make a month of tasty meals, two of our children could “make-do”, and two of our children would eat a lot of frozen pizza. They all have been introduced to cooking, but only one had the passion to pursue it.
The key to assisting your child to develop interests outside of school and sports is to spread a wide net without spending a lot of money.
When a hobby ‘sticks’, you can then invest more dollars into the activity or guide your student to spend wisely on the equipment or materials needed. Try to get them comfortable with many different types of activities including sports, music, outdoor activities, reading, building things, etc. Remember to include those hobbies (like ice fishing) that may not be in your wheel-house. The challenge will be to do your research and to show the same amount of passion that you would show if it were a hobby that is interesting to you.
Now more than ever, our young people need to find pastimes that they can be passionate about and that move them away from social media and video games. At the very least, these hobbies will provide them with a stress-management tool and a lifetime of enjoyment; ultimately, these hobbies may be a gateway to building a successful career in a related field. Either way, we as parents may need to be the key that opens these doors.