receives frequent questions about gifted-and-talented issues and
occasionally responds to them through this FAQ.
Question: My high-school-age daughter has no sense of purpose
in her life. She says everything is boring and can't seem to identify
an affinity with anything. I know she is gifted and has a great
deal of potential. How can I help her recognize her affinity?
Answer: Let me start by defining what affinity
means to me. Meeting my affinity in life has become a guiding force
and powerful motivator. I believe that purpose and meaning are truly
the most powerful aspects for moving beyond basic existence and
into a life of thriving fulfillment. Having a purpose, a will to
live, a sense of living one's life for something beyond self is
the nature of meeting your affinity.
In my Identity Formation Model, I look at how
the influences on forming our identity include the construct of
affinity. In essence I seek to understand how much of our identity
has included the development of a sense of purpose or calling. It
is an appropriate way to connect so we learn not to lose sight of
something greater than ourselves while we are developing who we
are. Each of us has our own affinity to meet.
I have come to know that when a child is not aware
of or has not been exposed to her affinity she is missing something
crucial to her identity formation. She may be tapping into a fragmented
sense of purpose in life and not a complete sense of meaning for
her existence. This uncultivated affinity also deprives the child
of motivation and a drive to partake in life on a meaningful level.
What you can do as a parent is to create an experience
with your child that shows her how to find purpose. A parent can
elevate to a higher priority this notion of developing a sense of
calling in life. I recall one family's effort to travel every summer
with a group that supports children with cancer. For some this may
sound cliché. Truly it is not, because most children have
never experienced the physical commitment to a calling or purposeful
endeavor with their fellow man. Parents need to create these experiences
because children will not necessarily find their affinity without
our support and opportunity.
A large sense of my experience and awareness of
having a purpose in life came from my parents and how they struggled
with meaning and purpose. I will never forget when I was a very
small child my mother came back from shopping and was rummaging
around the house. It turns out she was looking for a coat. While
shopping she had met a woman who was in need. That one experience
of watching her go out of her way to do this meaningful act with
all her heart felt passion and sincerity left me with a lasting
impression of true concern for others and their basic well-being.
Even as a child, I recognized the deeper meaning. Feelings like
these occurring in my childhood still resonate strongly within me
Children need modeling and opportunities from the
parent starting at an early age. If as a parent you feel you have
done that type of modeling for your child then you must trust the
process and relationship. Adolescents and young adults do not always
show us what we have taught them until much later in life.
You also may not actually have a true reading on
your child's experience with her sense of affinity. Many adolescents
appear devoid of expression at times. What I have come to know about
the adolescent experience is that the knowledge or insight really
is inside them. They are not yet able developmentally to integrate
or express these deeper inner thoughts. Think of this time in the
life of an adolescent as the gestation period for higher level development
and integration. Developmentally this takes years.
Remember yourself as a youth and try to recreate
where you were with these deeper issues about purpose -- about meeting
your affinity. Sometimes as parents we may actually be struggling
with the very issues we assess in our children. Ask yourself, have
you ever discussed with your child the notions of calling, purpose
and meaning in life? If not start there, but do it from the perspective
of wanting to share your thoughts on the issues not from assessing
what appears to be their lack of concern for such matters.
Our children learn through our struggles and how
we handle them. The old saying "do as I say, not as I do" is not
relevant here. Wouldn't it be wonderful to have a workshop for children
on learning how to develop their purpose in life? Helping them see
how that calling can unfold. This is akin to developing their spiritual
intelligence. If you value this notion of developing a sense of
purpose, fulfilling calling or as I call it meeting your affinity.
Then decide if you have devoted as much time as you would like to
this wondrous and motivating process of meeting your affinity and