January is a month for new beginnings. We often dream about what’s possible for the upcoming year creating hopes for new life experiences. Research has proven that defined intentions and goals reap greater success in many areas of life. Yet many don’t think about setting intentions and may not understand how to teach kids to set intentions. An intention is a clear and positive goal regarding what you want to have and experience in life. If you have a distinct end in mind, your thoughts, actions, attitude, and choices will move in that direction. If you don’t have a distinct end in mind, you will stumble and wander without direction.
Intention setting is a life skill we can teach our children that will benefit them now and in the future. Here are some tips to help you and your child learn how to set their intentions:
- Play a game imagining new possibilities:
Imagining new possibilities in life is a great conversation starter with kids. It can be fun, interesting, and exciting. As you are beginning your school day, coming back from recess, eating dinner, having a snack, driving in the car, or at bedtime; ask your student/child if they could do anything in the world, what would it be? You can use the word Imagine if you’d like.
Imagine…being a doctor, teacher, musician, etc.
Imagine…swimming with dolphins.
Imagine…going to college.
Don’t worry if their ideas are farfetched; let them dream, at least they are thinking about something positive—positive thinking improves brain function!
- Set daily intentions:
Make a fun event out of setting your intentions daily. In the morning when you/they wake up or as the students are sitting down to begin their day, ask them, “What kind of day are we going to have today?” See how they answer and point out the positive. Help them remember that setting your intentions daily does set the foundation for the mood/dynamics of the day.
- Help them clarify what they want:
Whether your setting intentions for the day, month, year, or lifetime, it’s important to clarify what you want. Saying, “I just want to be happy” isn’t enough. Help them be more specific about what they want in all areas of their life including home, family, work, school, friendships, relationships, finances, etc. Encourage your kids to write down or draw their Imagines on a piece of paper and put it somewhere they can see it. Visibility will spur them to think about it often, envision it, and feel good about the new possibility. Even scenarios that seem impossible can be helpful, feeling hopeful can give them energy to muscle through difficult times.
- Embellish what it will feel like when their dreams happen:
Ask what it will look, feel, smell, even taste like if that fits. Embellishing an idea makes it even more real and they will work harder to achieve it. It would be fun to act it out if possible. The more they feel the idea of it, the harder they will work to make it happen!
5. What will they need to do to make their intentions/dreams happen?
Don’t push too hard on this, but it’s important to talk to them about what they can do to make their dreams happen? Many kids (and some adults) would really like for others to do the work and then present them with their dreams; we all know that doesn’t happen. It’s important for all of us to think about how we can make our dreams happen, and then implement those important steps. Let children experience what works and what doesn’t, there are important learning opportunities in failures, and then in successes; muscling through both will build resilience.
Setting intentions is imperative in life—it helps us define what we want and work towards our dreams. Teaching kids to plan and Imagine is a critical life lesson. Give them small and big examples, helping them understand the process and learn how good it feels when you are successful!
The Imagine Project, Inc., a nonprofit organization that helps kids, teens, and adults overcome challenging life circumstances through expressive writing. Dianne is a thought leader in the area of stress and trauma in children. Her simple, yet profound 7-step writing tool, now used by schools across the US, gives kids and teens the opportunity to rewrite a challenging personal story and Imagine new possibilities in its place.