When I was navigating the trials and tribulations that comes with raising teenagers, a well meaning friend lent me the book, ‘Get Out of My Life, but First Could You Drive Me & Cheryl to the Mall: A Parent’s Guide to the New Teenager”, by Anthony E. Wolf. I laughed at the title, because it represented the heart of the issue. It is an age of angst, where our young adults are so desperately wanting to be independent – in fact that is their job, but they are still dependent on their prime caregivers, and begrudgingly have to rely on support from them.
I see a lot of young adults, many still at school. More often than not, the parent is the one who has made the appointment, at a loss for knowing how to support their son or daughter at this very important decision making time. Confusion, frustration and angst are present in both parents and their teen, trying to make sense of the rapidly changing world of work, and how to make good decisions that will be sustainable yet enjoyable.
One thing I have come to trust, is that most parents want the best for their young adult, and are open to understanding their role in this process.
So here are my 10 tips on how you can best support your teen in their future career decision making:
- Understand the current world of work
The world of work has changed significantly in the last 20 years, and never before has a generation had to adapt as fast to the changes as now, with industries, jobs and skills disappearing. But with this comes continual technology innovations and the creation of new jobs and skills. As a parent, you need to keep current with what is happening out there. This is valuable not only for your teen, but for your own ability to navigate changes.
- Widen the support network
You can’t know everything. It is a time your teen may not wish to hear from, or share with, you. Think about who else is in your lives who you can bring on board as another wise supporter of your teen – someone who they will feel comfortable talking to about their future.
- Know that their choices are not for life
Understanding the rapid changes in the world of work also means that the ‘old’ way of a ‘job for life’, ‘get a qualification and you will be set’, and ‘continually changing jobs looks bad’ – are no longer valid. Your teen may have 5 significant careers and 17 job changes over their life time! Whatever they choose now will not be their last.
- Celebrate and focus on their strengths
It is normal to get into that critical parent role when raising teens – commenting on what your teen hasn’t done – taken out the rubbish, tidied their room, completed their homework …yet this is the very time where confidence and self-belief are often lacking in teens. It is important to focus and comment on what they do well as this will have a positive impact on their self-belief.
5. Encourage choosing subjects that are of interest
It is easy to get trapped into keeping options open by taking a broad range of subjects, or putting value on certain subjects, like science and maths, and not on others like classics and art. But if your teen does not enjoy a subject, and possibly because of this, does not do well, the question has to be asked about what will be achieved if they continue to study these subjects – except possibly ending up hating school and learning, feeling like a failure and decreasing their sense of self-worth! This is not what a parent wants for their teen. Notice where their spark and energy is drawn from and foster that.
- Expand your teen’s thinking
You only know what you know. This is true of all of us. As a parent, it is important to expand your teen’s knowledge of what is out there, so that they can make decisions on a wide range of information, rather than just what is in front of them. This includes showing them your workplace (and friends if possible) so that they can understand what people do and their own career journey – the good, the bad and the ugly!
- Ask questions, challenge beliefs but don’t criticise.
We all have views about certain jobs. But what might be a nightmare of a job for you, will possibly be a perfect match for someone else. Try to keep your opinions to yourself, and ask open questions to learn what your teen really understands about certain roles, and what they might still need to find out. Your teen is often just trying something out to see if it fits, so what they come home thinking is often just an idea they are trying out. It is also important to challenge, whilst not being critical, any belief that may be erroneous so that your teen can make decisions on the correct information.
- Encourage work experience
The more reality your teen can be exposed to the better. Organise work experience in the field that they are interested in – the more they see and are exposed to, the more they will understand if this is right for them or not.
- Encourage part time work
I can’t help but be surprised with the scarcity of real world learning that a teen gets exposed to these days. Part time work is the perfect opportunity to build confidence and competence in the world of work. Skills such as discipline, communication, customer service, and good timekeeping are just a few positive by-products. Oh and getting paid!
10. Support them in their journey
Although your teen may often believe they are grown up and not want your help, they still need it. This is a big wide world, where it is easy to take the wrong step, or be too scared to even try. Stay with them, be their advocate, encourage them, walk alongside them. Not only will you be helping them to make good decisions for themselves, but you will be fostering a relationship built on trust, communication and belief.
If you have a teen who needs help with working out their direction, please get in touch.