Middle school is when students ideally find their passions. (Getty Images)

The middle school years — when childlike energy meets grown-up dreams — may be the perfect time for students to find their passion.

“For a long time, I thought my job was to share my passion with my students,” says Shane Cappuccio, middle and upper school English teacher at Portledge School in Locust Valley. “Now I know that I just need to show them what it looks like to be passionate, and give them space to find their own.”

Here’s how to help your preteen find their love.

FIND THEIR FRUSTRATION

Your middle schooler may need to explore before learning what their interests are. 

If they are truly passionate about something, they will work at it. This provides the intrinsic motivation that they will carry into adulthood. 

“Kids need to find what they like being frustrated by,” Cappuccio says. 

EMBRACE AWKWARDNESS

Middle school has a reputation for being a time of gracelessness. Yet nervousness and anxiety can become excitement when kids know they can be successful.

As parents, it is our job to encourage any signs of accomplishment in our middle schoolers. If your child is suppressing a smile at the thought of an upcoming concert, tell them how proud you are. Remember that your child’s concern is an indication of how much they care. 

TRIM SCREEN TIME

Excess social media has been linked to obesity, attention problems, and poor sleep. It could crush your child’s creativity. But eliminating it altogether is a struggle.

Before letting your child tunnel into their cyberworld, require them to read a chapter of their favorite book, or spend time practicing their musical instrument.

Adults know how to reward themselves often when they are doing a great job. Middle school is a great time to develop this habit in children. Use screen time to help kids relax after they have made a real effort.

UP YOUR COACH GAME

A professional coach will focus on a player’s natural strengths and find gentle ways to improve weaknesses. Many middle schoolers desperately need this kind of guidance.

Parents should praise children honestly when they notice real improvements and talents. Deep down, we all know that we have gifts worth nurturing. One adult who believes in a young person can inspire them for a lifetime.

Editor’s note: Rebekah Yahoves is an orchestra teacher at the Portledge School

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