Every parent has a dream for their child. Not just a dream – but big dreams. The question however remains, is your child’s dream the same as yours? Read on to find out how we start these conversations with them – what should we be mindful of, what do we look out for and how can we nurture the passions within our children allowing them to dream big.
It is important that we take time out to listen to what our children want or envision for themselves. As they grow through the different phases, very often their dreams will change. Listen and respect their opinions. Speak to them about what it is they like about that chosen career path, and in general what they enjoy doing both in and out of school.
Share your thoughts and experiences openly with them, discuss the pros and cons of those career options and the long-term career progressions, without being dismissive or talking down to them. Encourage them to keep their options open as they continue to explore their chosen path.
Each child is different – some excel in certain areas or are stronger in certain traits compared to others, and these strengths are possible indicators of what makes them happy and successful. Psychologists describe ‘strength spotting’ as an ideal way to get a child to recognise and embrace their talent. These can then be supported or further nurtured through school or extra-curricular activities.
From the identification of these strengths, allow your child to explore the various careers options that may appeal to them. Tried to resist boxing them in with career suggestions. For example, your child is a gifted debater, and your first instinct might be to say “oh, you’ll make a great lawyer”. But don’t close off the idea to other career paths as that trait might also be well suited in the field of journalism or politics.
As our teenagers grow, develop new interests, get exposed to new environments, their careers choices will most likely change – numerous times. Allow them that leeway. Assure them that just by choosing a career now, does not mean that they are locked into it for life. Reassure them that for every choice made, it is about learning a set of skills and experiences which can serve them just as well in a different career.
Allow them the space to develop curiosity and further exploration into their chosen field. You want to be a YouTuber? Well, what does it entail exactly? How do YouTubers earn their money – what is the business model? The scalability, the pitfalls? What is your brand – singer, reviewer, gamer, fashionista, etc?
If they are really keen, allow them to get hands-on work experience in their chosen field. This could be through camps, dedicated programmes, internships or even shadowing someone in the industry. This will give them a realistic view of the workplace and culture, and if these are not possible, then even a quick chat or interview with someone in their chosen field can provide them with some insights.
Use your network to help with introductions or open the doors for them. But let them take that step through those doors and experience the rest for themselves. Don’t be overly concerned that it’s not paid work or internship – look upon it as a chance for them to learn and explore their options.
As parents, be their champion. Don’t put limits on their dreams and don’t box them into certain preconceived corners. Listen, guide, mentor and encourage.
A recent report from Mr George Holden of Southern Methodist University, Texas, USA found that the way parents reacted in such situations greatly influenced the career paths their children followed in life. Our reactions to their ideas and choices, the things which we introduced them to, and how we teach them to deal with obstacles and disappointments clearly have an impact on the decisions our children make.