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  • Writer's pictureAlmeera Eman

How to Support your Kid’s Wacky Idea

Has your young person ever had the idea of starting their own business, launching a youtube channel, or making a living out of their hobby and you’re not sure how to support them? Well, this episode is for you! Michelle shares her top 4 tips on how to support them in making their project ideas come alive in a way that will teach them skills and life lessons regardless of the success of the project.

To top it all off - CanGap is launching an amazing FREE program for those change-makers and resume builders, spots are limited so make sure you listen for all the details!

Topics Discussed

  • We are living in a generation of changemakers who see the world and their purpose differently than before.

  • Michelle’s top 4 tips on supporting your kid on this exciting journey that will allow them to develop transferable skills.

  • Details on CanGap’s new and upcoming FREE program where participants are matched with a project coach and $1000 grant to get the project operational!

Resources Mentioned In This Episode

Connect With The Canadian Gap Year Association


Kids say the darndest things. Remember that show? Teens also have very vivid imaginations and visions of grandeur that aren't inhibited by age and experience. It can be a recipe for disappointment or the launch of something absolutely beautiful.

Listen into this episode to learn how to support your young person in making their project ideas come alive in a way that will teach them skills and life lessons regardless of the success of the process. Also, CanGap is launching an amazing free program for those changemakers and resume builders, so make sure you listen through the podcast for all of the details and check out the show notes for the links that you need to get your young person involved in this incredible opportunity.

Hey there and welcome to the Gap Your Podcast. My name is Michelle Dittmer and I am your host and Gap Your Expert. Today it is amazing how we are seeing more and more gappers exploring project -based gap years. So these are gap years where they have a particular focus. Maybe they are interested in entrepreneurship. Maybe they want to start a photography business or a bakery or a lawn care or maybe they want to start a tech support company for folks who may be a little bit older and not used to using all the tech. So entrepreneurship could be one style of project. The other one is social justice. We see all sorts of needs right now. We see climate action as a big piece, sustainability. We have young people looking at sustainable packaging and shipping materials. It is really amazing. All sorts of things like LGBTQ plus support. We see people that want to do projects, things like become a YouTube influencer and getting out there and monetizing a YouTube channel. Which I think is really interesting.

We as grown -ups sometimes don't see the value in that because that wasn't a career when we were young and we know how difficult it can be. But maybe that's a really great time to explore it on a gap here. We also see artists saying, Gee, I wonder if I could make it as an artist. Can I actually make money from doing this? So there's so many different things coming out of these minds of these incredible young people about how they want to work on a particular project during their gap time.

So what I love is that these ideas are coming from these fresh young minds. They inspire me. They are inspiring each other. And I think it's just so incredible that when we go back to how the adolescent brain works and I'm going to tap into a lot of the research from Alona Doherty of the University of Waterloo and her research on being wired for innovation. Really young people's brains, the adolescent brain is wired to be innovative, to come up with novel solutions to problems. And that's because they don't have the same breaking mechanism, that prefrontal cortex that causes grown -ups to have the fear or the idea that will never work. So all of those breaking mechanisms that we have that cause self -doubt or over -analysing things as grown -ups, young people don't have that. So as grown -ups, sometimes we try and push them back into the box. You're dreaming too big or that will never work. And really, we want to encourage that of our young people because that's the way they're wired. That's how their brain wants to work is in that innovation space. And the schooling system sometimes doesn't allow that to happen. So the gap year is really a time for creativity, for innovation, for the freedom and flexibility to discover, to test, to implement, and to really wonder the what -ifs and to live out the what -ifs. And I'm famous for saying that a gap year is that someone's risk -free trial on life, but it's also this risk -free trial for those ideas that they have that they want to test out that you as a parent might be skeptical of the reality is that we're sitting on a generation of incredible changemakers.

Gen Z just fundamentally sees the world differently than previous generations. They have grown up in a different environment and their ideas are different and they deserve to have the space to figure it out. So we know that Gen Z, they're very much conscious consumers. They're very aware of what they're paying for, where their money's going. They're financially minded, so they do have an awareness about the finances of things, what life is going to cost. We know that they value diversity and inclusion. We know that they are more than ever more than previous generations able to set boundaries and they're ambitious and ultra focused. So all of these things combined together allow these people to have incredible ideas, these wacky ideas that we think has grown up and they have a lot of the skills and the mindset in order to make these things happen.

So when your kid has that idea, what are you going to do? How are you going to support that? And I think that's the million dollar question is how are you going to support that? Now the ideas that I'm going to be sharing with you in this podcast are built upon a new program that the Canadian Gap Your Association is going to be operating. So we received some incredible funding from the Canadian Service Corps and we are operating two three month cohorts, one starting in October, one starting in January, where we will be able to incubate and coach gappers on how to not only refine their idea and plan their project and manage the project and execute it.

We will also talk about evaluation of how their idea came to fruition. So we really know what we're doing here and I want to give you some tips. So if this program might be right for you or you might want to support your young people, I'm going to share some of the things that we know in this program about how to make it happen.

So I've got four tips for you. The first tip is don't just say no. Okay, you're going to have to assess the risks for sure, but don't just jump to that hard no. There are so many reasons to say yes, but often as grownups, we see all of those negative things, all of the reasons why this is not going to work. Maybe they haven't thought about the funding. How are they going to buy all the supplies? No one else cares about that issue. They're not going to be able to get that off the ground or they never finish projects. How are they ever going to see this all the way through to the end? So what I would encourage you to say instead of saying no, right off the bat is ask yourself, what if I said yes? What is there to lose? Right?

Gap years are all about experimentation and testing and trying and failing sometimes, but it's really the opportune time to explore these harebrane ideas. So I encourage you to ask yourself or ask your young person, is this idea going to hurt anyone? Is it going to cause a significant financial loss that would be totally damaging? And will it ruin any chances for their future? If they're putting stuff out on social media, make sure that it's going to be something that's going to be favorable for them. But if the answer to those questions is it's not going to hurt anyone, it's not going to cause a significant financial loss and it's not going to negatively impact their future, then it sounds like it might be a good idea for them to at least give it a try. Letting them explore these ideas and explore bringing these projects to life will allow them to see if they could actually make something happen. And if they do, amazing! What a huge success! This is great!

And if they don't, they can move forward without any of those lingering what ifs or regrets hanging over their shoulder from never having given those ideas, those what ifs, the fair chance. Now I see lots of different examples of how this plays out. Sometimes we have gappers who want to be an athlete. What if I could run track for an NCAA school in the States? What if I could actually have a modeling career? Wouldn't that be awesome? What if I could be that YouTube star that could monetize off of that? What if my art could actually sell and I could make a living doing? What if I could program my own video game? What if I could start my own business?

All of these things can linger in the back of our minds and I think as grownups we can look back at all the what ifs. All of those chances that we never took. So a gap year is an opportunity for you to let your young person take those chances so they don't have those regrets or have those what ifs. Alright, so that's tip number one. Don't say no, assess the risks and go for it.

Tip number two is to get a guide or a mentor or be that guide. So launching a big idea takes more than just the idea. And sometimes this is where the missing prefrontal cortex doesn't work to their advantage. There needs to be a plan and some life experience to fit with that idea. A young person may say let's just build an addition onto our house. Well they might not be aware that maybe they need a permit to do that or maybe if they want to host an event they don't realize how much the space is going to cost and the food and how are they going to get tickets. So there is some support that they're going to need along the way. Not because they can't handle it but because they lack in life experience because of just simply how long they've been on this planet. It's really a tricky thing to be a guide on a project like this. You really want to be the guide on the side and not the project manager. The project manager is their role. You're just there to assist and provide ideas that they can either take or leave and just make some suggestions.

And this is where the project coaches in our program really excel and they ask really thoughtful questions. So instead of saying you don't have the money for that you can frame it as a question. Have you thought about how you're going to finance getting the supplies for that? And that can get them thinking in the right direction or if you don't think anybody else might get on board with this project. Maybe the thought process is wow love that idea. I know you're so passionate about whatever the topic is indexing Pokemon cards. Are there lots of other people as passionate as you and will they join you in this project? That's a great way to get them thinking. Or maybe that they don't finish projects. We talked about that before. Can say maybe wow that sounds like a lot of work and I can see you're really excited about this idea. How can I help keep you on track and how can I keep you motivated?

So that's the job of the guide or the mentor or the coach is asking those questions, but not only asking those questions, but providing them with resources. So in our program we're not only providing them with a thousand dollars to get their project up and off the ground. We're also providing them with project management tools, workshops on key topics that are going to support the success of the project. And also that peer to peer feedback because they're going to have a cohort of other people working on their projects. It will be amazing to be able to bounce those ideas back and forth and to troubleshoot some of the things that are going to go awry because you know what it's projects and they always, always do. So tip number two is to be that guide or coach or get a coach that can ask the good questions and connect them with resources to do it. So not doing the project for them, but just pointing them in the right direction.

Tip number three, I'm not going to say too much on is put a plan together. I talk about this all the time about the importance of having a plan. The plan is going to change seven million times and that's okay, but we need to be looking at the big picture. We can't just launch into something without having that plan in place. So I'm going to leave it at that. Have a plan.

Tip number four is to spend time. So the project has happened. Everything went as it did. Maybe it went well. Maybe it didn't, but you're going to spend some time evaluating the success of the project. So whether the project was a raging success or an epic failure, it's worth celebrating because they were able to accomplish something. And I really encourage people to look at the actual impact. So maybe at the beginning, you were thinking you were going to measure your advanced success on how many people showed up. And maybe you had a target of 50 people. Maybe that number, you didn't achieve that number. Maybe only 35 people showed up to your fundraising event. So you missed that target, but maybe you were actually way above target on the number of people that saw your social media posts or the number of people who donated in the long run. Or maybe each person donated a greater value than you originally projected. So knowing what you're looking at and what you're measuring, both the things that you anticipated and the things you didn't can really show the impact that you have on one of these projects. So it can be really profound. But not only are you evaluating the success of the project, we also want to look at what was learned through this process. So look at the project itself and say, okay, well, what worked? What maybe didn't work so well? And what would you do differently next time? Being able to have these critical thinking skills and these reflective skills will help your young person to continue to grow and evolve and to be more successful. So we're going to look at what they learned. Look at any skills that they might have developed. And I think this is where some coaching comes in because young people often don't have the language to be able to take it and translate it into some of those transferable skills that employers want to do. So what I think is that its important to see that scholarship folks want to be looking at. So really help them with that translation of the experience into those transferable skills and put it on their resume. So actually figuring out how does this fall, Does this go under work experience, volunteer experience? How do you articulate the fact that you project manage this entire thing? What are those concrete skills? Another thing that you can look at when you're evaluating the project is what relationships were formed. I think it's really cool to see that often in projects like this, intergenerational relationships were formed.

And it's not just friendships that were formed, but maybe that might have happened. But what are some of those professional networks that have been grown over the course of this? Maybe you worked closely with the local library or maybe you had a local cafe donate the coffee. So what are those relationships and look at how you might be able to support each other in through the future?

So those are my top four tips. Number one, don't say no, but assess the risks. Number two, get or be that guide or coach. Tip number three, put a plan together. Tip number four, spend a good amount of time evaluating the success of the project. Now, all of these tips are coming directly from our new program. And we are so delighted to be offering this program. And once again, I just want to underscore this program is free to participate in. We are taking 50 participants into this program. We have two courts cohorts that are running this academic year. So one starting in October, 2023, and that runs October through December. And then one operating January, 2024 right through to March, 2024. So really it 2020 24. Yeah, 2024. So we are really excited for this to launch.

And just as a little bit of a recap, once a student joins, they're going to be put into a cohort of young people. They are going to be matched with an incredible project coach who is going to guide them through the process from ideation to planning to execution and evaluation. And as part of this, the funding includes a micro grant for each gapper of $1 ,000 to get their program or their project up and off the ground. So not only is the program free, they're actually going to get a cash injection to make this project of theirs possible. So we are so excited to be able to deliver this. And if you know someone who might be interested in participating in this program, we invite you all to check out the details on our website. So look under the tab gappers. You will see our programs listed there and we would love to see you on board. You can also get on our mailing list. So because that is where we are going to be letting people know when the applications go live for both of those cohorts.

So what does it look like to be a good participant? We want people who are innovative people who have some sort of interest in community service. They want to be able to maybe grow their resume, grow their experience and have a little bit of a self starter attitude. So we want to make sure that these folks are going to be successful.

And while we provide the accountability, your young people are out there providing ideas and being able to get these pro these projects up and off the ground. So what an amazing thing to do on your gap year to be able to grow your skills, grow your network, be able to create something from scratch and see it all the way through in three short months. So there is still room for other things happening on that gap year. We would love to support your young people head to can gap .ca get all the details there and we can't wait to see you inside that program.

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