You can help empower your child's future in the time you spend building who they are today. It's never too early to cast vision, dream big with them or help them discover who they are. I love that kids are natural dreamers and visionaries. You don't have to tell them to "imagine." They see fewer obstacles and entertain much more "possibilities" than adults. They are less tainted, cynical or skeptical. Youth is a good season in their lives to get them thinking about how they will lead their lives in the future, but also what steps they can take today to help make their dreams a reality.
1. Brainstorm, Dream and Imagine With Them Your kids look up to you. They imitate what you do and they are shaped by how you think. Get engaged in the conversation about their future early and aggressively. Explore with them--their crazy wiles, tangents, stories--everything. Help them brainstorm a million ideas, but as the adult in the relationship pay really close attention to the themes that repeatedly come up in their conversations, the similarities and what they have an affinity towards and are drawn too. You will learn and be able to help steer them in the right direction but just taking that extra moment to listen and observe.
3. Foster emotional maturity now. How your children deal with life and its ups and downs, processing their expectations and learning how to overcome, will show up later in their adult life when their emotional intelligence really counts (either for or against them). Help them process their emotions in a healthy way.
3. Empower a sense of community and caring. The ability to connect with those around you in a positive way is priceless. Make sure their world involves the awareness that they are not the only ones in it. A kid that respects and values relationship and connection grows into an adult that looks for ways to plug in and not isolate; to work with people and through their circumstances, rather than avoiding them.
4. Talk "Big". Your child's world should involve ideas, themes, and conversations that are outside of their everyday "kid-life." When they think big, they dream big. If their minds are challenged, their character stretched--they will rise to the occasion and reach to become someone greater--a person of significance. Talk to your kids about the issues of the world, the true adversities people face, the responsibilities we have to God, to our nation, to one another. They should have opportunities to think and consider outside of their scope--they will take this kind of thinking with them into adulthood.
5. Don't simply rely on the "hard-knocks" and disappointments to teach them. Yes, we are shaped by what happens to us--no doubt. A breakup, a broken family, our own mistakes and mishaps. But don't just rely on the natural ups and downs of life to teach your kids how to mature and be ready for adulthood. Teach and demonstrate wisdom in the good moments--the normal times. Illustrate maturity and responsibility through how you live, day-to-day. Let them in on what is to lead and maintain the family, the value of work and earning a living, the importance of sincere worship and being accountable to God and the consequence and/or benefit of the choices we make.
6. They Can Take It. The environment and mentality that surrounds your child will become what they believe. If you put destiny and purpose on their mind, they will think about and consider the future more naturally. Children adapt to their environment. Provide for them the setting and the resources that will help shape them for tomorrow. If you don't baby them, they will mature.