Some kids are born planners. Some of them are going to be pantsers the rest of their life. Mine like to straddle the line between the two. Just when I think they’ve got the next 30 years of their life planned out, they’ll do something spur of the moment that flips everything on its head and leaves me staring in awe.
Even the most dedicated pantser needs a bit of direction every now and then, however. Surprise surprise, experts say the best way to give them that is to get them involved in setting goals and picking their own path. Which sounds really good on paper, but how do you make that happen in real life?
One of the things we’ve really been working on around here is getting a 529 plan put together for the kids for college (you’ve been reading this blog, right?). It’s a good place to start when you’re talking about planning for the future, because kids can get tangibly involved.
Contributing part of their birthday money or allowance, or asking friends and relatives to contribute for birthdays and holidays, is a great way to get kids involved. They can tangibly watch their accounts grow.
Encourage kids to find volunteer opportunities to take advantage of. Don’t pick for them-let them choose for themselves. This lets them establish their own values and find their own passions. The same can be said of sports and school activities. It may not feel like a planning tool right now (in fact, when you’re in the middle of running from games to school and back again it can feel like nothing but a headache!) but your kids are learning important life skills like goal setting, determination, stress management, sportsmanship and teamwork.
They’re also learning how competitive they are, which is surprisingly important when you start talking about choosing a future career. Someone who needs the limelight may not enjoy a job that’s 100% teamwork focused, and someone who isn’t competitive may find they don’t enjoy a job or organization that’s traditionally cutthroat in opportunities for advancement.
The late elementary-early middle school years are a great time to encourage job shadowing if the opportunity presents itself. If you can afford it, encourage them to travel-sometimes seeing other parts of the country opens their eyes to goals and passions they may not have found at home.
Whether they’re planners or pantsers, getting your kids involved in the planning process gives them the opportunity to develop the drive to achieve their goals in a way that nothing else can.

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