Helping teens with career planning

Teens look to parents when making future-oriented decisions; explore suggestions for steering them in the right direction.

Most parents would like some assurance that their teens will experience a positive future. We would love to have a crystal ball to get a clear picture of what is to come for our teens – as parents, we would love to give our children all the tools necessary for creating a perfect future.

But what contributes to a successful future? Teens look to parents when making future-oriented decisions. Of course, parents can’t guarantee a perfect future, but they can help teens think ahead about actions that contribute to future success.

By the time teens are age 17 or 18; most teens have discovered a number of realities about themselves. Older teens often feel excited and ready to move into the “real” adult world and work toward dreams. Teens realize that they will soon need to make decisions that will have major consequences in their lives, a reality that intensifies as they near high school graduation. Fortunately, abilities to make sound choices improve throughout adolescence. Teens begin to realize they have the power to make choices and predict outcomes with some degree of accuracy. They tend to work very energetically to achieve what they consider to be worthwhile goals.

How can parents help? You can ask the right questions that will lead to your teen’s self-awareness. You can work with them to sort out the answers and make plans. You can help them learn to strike a balance between having a dream and developing realistic steps to transform that dream into a reality.

How parents can help teens with career planning:

  • Help teens find out more when they express interest in a job or field of work.
  • Ask a friend, neighbor or relative in the field to talk with your teen about what they like or don’t like about their selected job.
  • Talk to the guidance counselor about “vocational interest” tests and other sources of information.
  • Talk with teens about their dreams for the future.
  • Help your teen set up some job shadowing or volunteering in a career of interest.
  • Ask them “What kinds of people do you want to work with?”
  • Stress the personal and social values of work. Work should be meaningful and fit with a teen’s values.

What to avoid:

  • Try not to push teens into making decisions too early, especially if they do not yet have career goals
  • Avoid stereotyping based on gender roles. Encourage males and females alike to explore nontraditional career options.
  • Don’t judge too harshly. Career choice involves a long and creative process of exploration. Teens eventually recognize their own “dead ends,” and eventually get back on the road toward realistic work.

Teens need parental guidance in gathering information and assessing how personal characteristics and dreams fit with specific educational and career possibilities. Teens who learn broad planning and management skills will be better prepared to enter the adult world.

Parents can help inspire a personal purpose to enable teens to create rewarding lives. Parents who discuss spiritual and moral issues, model hope and future-building, and allow questioning strengthen their teen’s sense of purpose, meaning and optimism.

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