Encouraging your child to be who they are is actually one of the biggest learning resources you can provide. Everyone learns differently and has interests in different things.

By encouraging the pursuit of those interests, even after school, you’re setting your child up for a lifetime of greater success.

Unfortunately, academics don’t often allow our kids to showcase who they really are. Between schedules, test scores, and academic standards, many kids feel as though their interests aren’t important if they don’t fall into some kind of academic rubric.

So, as parents, it’s important to encourage those passions as much as possible. Let’s go through a few ways you can encourage your child to pursue their interests after school.

1. Schedule Time for Them to Choose Their Interests

Instead of letting your child crash on the couch to play video games after school, schedule some time for them to explore their interests.

Have they talked about a certain sport? Why not take them to the local gym to try it out? Are they interested in science? Building? Writing? Find activities that allow them to explore it. When you set aside time for them to be productive, they’ll have a better chance at figuring out what they’re really interested in.

2. Don’t Push Them

Remember, your child needs to be the one in the “driver’s seat” when it comes to pursuing their interests outside of school. While it’s a good idea to schedule free time for them to do so, don’t push them to do something just because you might have a stronger interest in it than they do.

Or, if they do show interest in something, don’t go overboard with it. That can squash their passion and make it seem more like schoolwork than anything else. Encourage them to continue exploring what they like.

3. Avoid Scheduling Too Much

There’s a good chance your child will be interested in a variety of different things. Encourage them to explore all of their passions, but don’t over-schedule them. That will quickly cause them to feel burnt out.

As a result, they might not show as much interest in certain things in the future. Schedules are important, but encourage your child to work at a pace that is comfortable for them.

4. Let Them Share in Your Interests

Your children look up to you and the things you do. So, don’t be afraid to let them in on your own interests. That doesn’t mean forcing them to do the things you like to do. But, you might be surprised to find that they enjoy the things you like just as much as you do!

This could be something as simple as having them go on your morning run with you. Or, offer them one of your favorite murder-mystery novels and see if they get as hooked as you. Sharing your own passions with your children is not only a great way to let them explore their interests, but it can create great bonding memories in the process.

5. Encourage Continued Learning

Even if your child is already interested in something or starts to develop a strong interest in one thing, don’t stop encouraging them to learn. They might always pick one thing over another. But, just because they find their niche doesn’t mean everything else should fall away.

By exposing your child to many different possible interests, you’re always pushing for growth. This is a great way to understand how your child learns and it makes it easier for them to adapt to different learning styles. It also allows them to explore multiple passions and continuously try something new.

6. Give Them the Tools They Need

Has your child shown an interest in art? Show them some encouragement by getting them the supplies they need. Have they been working hard on the baseball field? Show them your support with a new bat or glove.

Schools don’t always offer the resources our children need to really dive into their passions. While it’s not feasible to go out and buy all the equipment/tools your child might need for all their interests, doing so for a few things can let them know you believe in their passions, and you support them.

7. Make Their Interests a Part of Their Education

Algebra and Social Studies might not always fit into whatever your child is passionate about. But, as they get older they’re likely to have more opportunities to integrate the two. Your child won’t always have to only pursue their passions after school.

Most students in junior high or high school are allowed to pick one or two “electives.” These are usually courses like art, music, language, etc. Some schools offer very unique and interesting electives.

Letting your child pick their electives based on their interests is a great way to let them explore their passions on an educational level, and learn even more about them.

As you can see, there are many ways you can encourage your child to pursue their interests after school. Once they’re able to do that, you can start integrating those interests into their school days, too!