Helping Your Children Thrive Out of Your Shadow

By Rebecca Lake

Growing up in a wealthy family can definitely have its perks. Affluent parents can often open doors for their offspring and ease paths more so than parents with more limited financial resources.

At the same time, children of wealthy parents may find themselves facing intense pressure to follow in the footsteps of Mom and Dad.

One of the ways that pressure often manifests itself is in the form of a schedule that's jam-packed with extracurricular activities. Data from the Pew Research Center shows that children of wealthy parents are far more likely to participate in sports or other athletic activities, do volunteer work, take art, music or dance lessons, or belong to an organization like the Boy or Girl Scouts. On top of that, they're also expected to be social and maintain good grades.

Encouraging a child to be active and take education seriously can improve their odds of becoming a successful adult. But children need to chart a unique path, and parents can help them do that. If you're not sure where to start, here are some tips for raising wealthy, healthy kids.

Help them discover their passions

Some kids know from a relatively young age what it is they want to do with their lives, but others take a bit longer to pin down their true interests. If your child falls into the latter category, you have two options:

  • Sign them up for any and every activity or class that's available, hoping that something will stick. This gives them plenty of variety but at the expense of your wallet, not to mention the time that's involved in taking them from one activity to the next.
  • A more effective choice is to help them identify the things that really get their attention. Simple observation is a good starting point. For example, if you notice that their reading list is full of books on space or dinosaurs, that in itself is a clue. From there, you can get a discussion going about what really gets them excited.

Encourage autonomous exploration

Once your child has identified something they're passionate about, give them the freedom to dive in. The key is to make those opportunities optional, rather than required.

For instance, if your son is a dedicated gamer, suggest a trip to a coding camp to learn more about programming. If your daughter loves to paint, see if she's interesting in taking art classes or getting a membership to your local art museum.

Once you put some possibilities out on the table, take a step back. Researchers from the University of Montreal found that children were much more likely to develop a passion for things like music and sports when they could nurture those interests without a parent hovering over them.

Help them create a road map

If your kids are older and college is on the horizon, try to help guide them to schools that will allow them to pursue their interests further.

So why is college choice so important? The 2015 Gallup-Purdue Index Report found that young adults tend to be more productive and have deeper engagement with their jobs when they have a positive student experience.

The study determined that a positive student experience is more critical to long-term emotional well-being than whether a student attends an exclusive private university or a lower cost public college. When evaluating prospective schools, it's important to look beyond its history or prestige and zero in on what it offers that can help your child confidently follow their dreams.

Allow room for failure

As a parent, you want your child to succeed but that doesn't mean you have to be their problem-solver. At some point, give them a chance to fall down, as painful as that may be. Jessica Lahey, author of The Gift of Failure: How the Best Parents Learn to Let Go So Their Children Can Succeed, argues that without the occasional failure, kids have a tougher time learning to make their own decisions as adults.

Guiding your child toward their own future means walking a fine line between what they want and what you think is best. Maintaining good communication and establishing boundaries can help make the transition from childhood to adulthood easier on both sides.

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