As parents, we all have hopes and dreams for our children. Many of us share similar goals. We want our children to receive a quality education, be productive citizens, have values and morals, find their passion or passions in life and, of course, be happy and healthy. All of this is a work in progress and it’s up to us to guide our kids.

In our family as our own young sons grow, a theme that continues to pop up for us is making sure we are diligent in exposing our boys to all types of experiences, to help them discover their talents and passions.

At the moment, both boys love singing, dancing and playing sports.

So how can parents inspire their children without over-scheduling them? How can we avoid unwittingly pressuring them? What is the most healthy way to go about helping children find their passions?

I asked Joani Geltman, an expert in the field of Child Development and parenting to weigh in. Geltman has also raised a successful, healthy and happy daughter. She is an actress who just appeared on Broadway and has three movies out. Geltman explains that she did not push her daughter, she only supported what her daughter wanted to do. They started out small, she says “it was not sophisticated at all.” Geltman says if you want your children to find their passions and succeed it has to happen in a “natural way.”

Here are some tips from Geltman:

-Many parents bring their own interests and passions in support of family life, only steering their kids in the direction they see. Understand that when they are young “they will go in the direction you want them to go in.” You have to pay attention to what makes them happy. Parents can’t navigate everything.”

-For really small children, it’s simple. Watch them play. What are your children doing during undirected play? Put things out and take a big step back. Follow your kids’ lead, recognize what their talents are, what they want to do. In elementary school, listen to them. They will tell you what they like if you’re willing to hear it. When it comes to teens, if you don’t step back, they will go in the opposite direction you are promoting.

-Allow your child to be your child. If he is a high energy person, then let him be busy. If he is not, then just let him be.

-Introduce your children to many things. “It’s like taking them to a buffet.” But do not over schedule, it’s all about balance.

-Sit back to watch and listen- pay attention to his/her nature, your nature may be different.

-Make your kid feel understood.

-Remember too, that someone’s passion doesn’t always have to have an end result, a passion can be simply for enjoyment.

Joani Geltman is an expert in the field of Child Development and parenting. She has been working with parents, children, schools, and companies for over 30 years. Ms. Geltman has developed a number of seminars especially designed for parents of teenagers on understanding their teen’s cognitive and emotional and social development. Adolescent Psychology-The Parent Version, and Sexting, Texting, Drinking And Drugs are two that are in great demand at schools and community groups all over New England.

Joani’s book: I Get it: Three Magic Words for Parents of Teens is available on her Joani also writes a daily parenting tip blog. Currently there are over 300 tips to help parents navigate the teen age years.

Here are some other great tips I collected from Kate Fox, the director of Free Spirit Nature Camp and the new Birch School, a child-centered learning community and home school resource center.

-Encourage time with friends. Kids learn new things from each other all the time. The path to their passion may lie in a tip from a friend.

-Be patient. Many adults are still searching for that certain thing that resonates with them. We shouldn’t expect our kids to know what their particular interest is by any certain time.

-Offer many opportunities. After school classes, summer camps, art and dance schools, museums and libraries all offer kids chances to learn more about the things that interest them. Let your children try new classes, especially those that happen just once. Look for a spark that might grow after their first exposure and be sure to give opportunities to repeat activities of interest.

-Try not to be so overly enthusiastic about your child’s new interest. Let the child’s affection grow slowly, and don’t interfere at first. Often, when you show great enthusiasm and therefore expectations, your child will back away from the activity in reaction to the pressure. Instead, facilitate the activity as necessary, but be laid back and somewhat disinterested in the final outcome.