Some children come out of the womb, it seems, with big plans of what they want to accomplish with their lives. For most, however, it can be a mystery — a secret worth pulling out of them.

That’s where you and I, as parents come in. You may have one child who’s a dreamer — she knows exactly what she wants to do with her life. Yet, the other may take a while to develop creative abilities or academic interests. But by watching, and praying for wisdom to help cultivate that dream God has placed on their hearts, we can be there to be the wind beneath their wings when it’s time for them to fly.

In my newest book, When a Mom Inspires Her Daughter, I outline six steps to encourage your daughter to discover and pursue her dream (and I believe these steps can apply to our sons, as well):

1. Let Her Explore

Kelly grew up with a critical mother who didn’t lavish much praise on her. But she does remember one thing her mother did very well: “She always allowed me to explore, try and learn.

I devoured books, movies and classes. I asked questions and got answers. I was able to go places and do things to learn more about everything around me, to challenge me and to let me grow. Eventually I became comfortable in my own skin because I had a childhood to explore who God designed me to be.”

Help her explore new areas. One of them might be the area in which she truly shines.

2. Look and Listen for What Makes Her Heart Sing

 Sometimes we don’t see a dream on our child’s horizon because that dream is still developing. Or, as it was developing, we weren’t necessarily looking for it.

Sara says she wishes she had noticed her daughter’s dream when Lauren, now 23, was a little girl. “It took me too long to recognize Lauren’s strong gravitation toward the arts. I am not artistically gifted but she is! She writes music and poetry, sings, plays musical instruments, loves photography and her painting aptitude is amazing! I wish I had seen this in her when she was little.”

What is your daughter saying now about what she is interested in? What is she saying she no longer wants to do? That can give you an idea of where her dream may or may not lie.

3. Let Her Take a Break – or Change her Mind

 Sometimes our children try something but find it’s not what they had hoped or wanted, after all. Yes, we need to teach our children commitment and how to stick with something, but after the commitment (and hopefully she never signs up for more than a one-year commitment at a time), let her reevaluate.

Sometimes she was simply gaining skills for the next step, which is something different. And sometimes she just needs time off to get her heart back for it (as was the case with my daughter, Dana, when it came to giving up piano lessons. She returned to it five years later with an amazing ability and passion for it that I never saw in her earlier!)

Your daughter may know more than anyone else when it’s time to take a break from something and move on to something else. (Or when it’s crucial to stick with something that you don’t necessarily feel is worth the time, trouble, or money.)

4. Lighten Up

By becoming our children’s cheerleader we can sometimes be so into what they are doing that we unintentionally convey to them that it’s more important how they do, than what they do. Learn to back off now and then and see if your daughter is pursuing a dream because it’s on her heart, or because it was on yours.

5. Live It out in Front of Her

Is your daughter seeing you pursue your dream and live it out? If not, what can you do to model to her that you fully believe God can accomplish anything in her life that she gives to Him in faith? (For help with living out your dream, see my book, When a Woman Discovers Her Dream.)

6. Let God into the Process

I was a little fearful when my daughter expressed an interest in attending an acting school in Hollywood right after high school graduation. I was concerned about all the “what ifs” and if that was the best environment for her. But God eventually made it clear to her what He wanted her to do and I didn’t have to be the one to do any arguing or convincing.

If your daughter is leaning toward an area that concerns you, talk to God about it first. Philippians 4:6-7 encourages us in this regard:

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need,  and thank him for all he has done.  Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. —Philippians 4:6-7, NLT

Have a question about helping your son or daughter pursue their God-given dream? I’d love to hear it.

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