Research shows that it's important to get children thinking early about what's important to them and why.
According to educator Susan Bosak, national chairwoman of the Legacy Project under the nonprofit Parenting Coalition and Generations United in Washington, D.C., 30 percent of students drop out of school and of those who graduate more than half find themselves "aimless."
"Have you ever noticed that the word 'if' is in the middle of life?" she said. "There's this tentativeness to it all - all these choices we have to make. Our dreams shape our life choices and becoming aware of that is key for kids."
Dreams help young people develop a future and offer hope and a sense of control, she says. Setting and striving for goals helps children and teenagers to understand responsibility, break large tasks into manageable steps, work with others to get what they want, realize what goals are realistic, and believe in who they are and what they can accomplish.
Bosak provides these tips for parents and teachers to help children develop goals:
• Begin the school year with a goal letter. Children should identify something they'd like to learn more about or do or a fear they'd like to overcome. With the help of an adult, write out these goals, the reason behind them and the steps to get to them, as well as the dates the goals should be achieved by.
• Together, write an education contract that children can sign that includes items like double-checking homework before handing it in, starting to study for a test at least three days beforehand, and listening better in class.
• Help children develop a "better me" list - tasks they can do on a regular basis to improve themselves, like reading one new book each week, helping a younger brother or sister with homework, or studying an extra 15 minutes each day.
• Make a Dream Chest with your children and have them fill it with articles, images, cartoons, quotations and other items that inspire them or relate to their dreams and goals.
• Set a Dream Time every week. Read inspiring books together and discuss them.
Bosak is author of a book called "Dream," available for $17.95. The Legacy Project offers free online Life Dreams ideas and activities, such as origami dream stars, a dream mountain collage, the club of dreamers and The Millionaire Quiz. For free Life Dreams activities, see www.legacyproject.org.
n Submitted by Brian Puppa of the Legacy Project.