If you live to 100, what do you want people to remember about you? Will your actions over the years reflect what you believe in and stand for? When young people think today about what they want to accomplish in their lives, it shapes their sense of purpose. Each and every young person has something unique to offer the world.
Young people who have a sense of purpose feel good about themselves, get along better with their parents, and get into less trouble. About 56 percent of local young people say their life has a purpose, according to our most recent Profiles of Student Life survey. For those who do not, caring adults can help them identify what matters most to them and what they find meaningful.
Ask young people what inspires or excites them and share your thoughts on the subject with them. Encourage them to write down their thoughts about the meaning of life to help gain a greater understanding about what is important to them. Tell them to review what they have written from time to time and notice how some of these things may change over time. Let them know changes are healthy and natural as people mature. Encourage them to aim for the things that give their lives purpose.
At home: ask your child how he or she would like to contribute to the family and to others in the community. Then help her or him get started.
Around the community: look for stories or images that depict local people who have lived with a clear sense of purpose. What did they accomplish? Write an article about one of these people for your local newspaper or newsletter.
At school: ask young people to help younger kids. Pair them up in general mentoring relationships or for tutoring on specific school subjects. This will give the older kids a sense of purpose, as well as model to the younger ones what it means to help others.
Ian Eastman, M.A., coordinates Healthy Communities-Healthy Youth of Warren County on behalf of Family Services. This article was adapted from Instant Assets, published by Search Institute.