It’s a question that's been asked of your child since they learned to talk; “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Early on, the answers likely followed a common path toward adventurous pursuits like firefighting or law enforcement. Some kids reach for the stars and exclaim, “I want to be an astronaut!” What happens when being a firefighter or police officer or even an astronaut becomes a distinct and emerging possibility?
With Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day around the corner, now is a good time to encourage your teenager to take some preliminary steps in shaping their lives as adults.
Thinking about the future entails examining their likes and dislikes along with their strengths and challenges to fashion a path for their lives after they’ve flown the coop. Some young adults may already be thinking about the future while others may need more prodding. Here are a few ways to encourage your kid to think seriously about the future.
Learn what they find most compelling
Oftentimes, the best way to begin thinking about the future is to examine what pursuits a young adult excels at and enjoys. Then, find ways to translate those interests in terms of education or vocation. For example, if a child truly enjoys helping other students in a class or working as tutor after school, perhaps a career is in education could be a good fit. Or, if he or she loves to travel and be outdoors, search for careers that allow them to maintain those interests.
Match their skills and traits to career paths
A simple way to spark a conversation about the future is to recognize a child’s gifts and accomplishments. Making a statement such as, “You’re really good at math and you seem to like building things; have you ever thought about studying to become an engineer?” Some skills and interests are slightly less obvious in how they transfer to a profession, but recognizing what people do well can work wonders toward fostering a serious and inquisitive thought process about the future.
Provide steadfast encouragement
One way to encourage a young person toward thinking seriously about their future is by establishing an environment of expectation. This method is tricky because it opens the possibility of applying potentially paralyzing pressure upon the child. Avoid heaping on extreme parental pressure by toeing a fine line between expecting specific behavior and merely expecting effort.
The difference between a parent who expects their child to go to a top-tier university and one who expects the child to strive for their potential is a significant distinction. Once the atmosphere is set where parents expect and trust a young adult to make informed and critical decisions, the child is empowered by the confidence to pursue their path on their terms -- a more inviting arena for thinking about the future.