Many parents have asked the question, "What do you want to do?" and heard the reply, "I don't know." Finding ways to talk about your child's future in a meaningful way can be a challenge. Helping your teen find the career path in life where they will be happy and fulfilled means helping them get to the very core of who they are. Think of it as a treasure hunt; at the end you will know more about your teen than you thought and will have helped them clarify some of their ideas and goals. Below are some questions and tips to help you in the process.
Questions to Ask Your Teen
- What do you do that makes you feel confident?
- What do you think you're good at? (This does not need to be academic.)
- Have you thought about where you might like to go to college? If so, where and why?
- What are your favorite subjects in school?
- What extracurricular activities and hobbies do you enjoy doing the most?
- If you picture yourself five years from now, what is your life like?
- What are you doing when you feel the happiest and most satisfied?
- What have you always dreamed about being?
- Who do you find inspiring?
- What people in your life do you want to be like? Why?
- What part of the country have you always dreamed of living in?
- What places would you like to travel to in your life time?
Tips on Talking with Your Teen
- Reaffirm your belief that they will be successful in life.
- Start talking with your child about their future at an early age. Starting in elementary or middle school is not too soon.
- Let them know what your expectations are. Ask them about their own expectations. Listen carefully and non-judgmentally. Do you share the same expectations? If not, talk about how they are different and why.
- Give your teen some time to think about the topics. Tell them what you'd like to discuss, ask them if they have additional topics they'd like to discuss and agree on a time to sit down and talk.
- As parents know, teens are very perceptive and often very sensitive about being "judged." Think of this when you're having conversations about college and career planning. Try to be aware of your own tone of voice and body language, even if you feel very strongly about a certain point.
- Let them know that it is ultimately their decision. This will help empower them to take responsibility for their future.
- At the same time, let them know that you are still their parent and still have high expectations (parents' high expectations are a crucial factor in student success).
- Positively reinforce their behavior when they show maturity, insight or initiative in planning for the future. This can be as simple as a well placed compliment: "I'm really impressed that you're already thinking ahead."
- Model the behavior you want them to show. Always wanted to go back to school? Thinking about a change in career? Make a reasonable, achievable plan and get started! You will inspire your teen to do the same.