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The Effect of Parents on an Adolescent's Choice of Career

The closer your adolescent gets to adulthood, the more he knows about himself and the frightening and exhilarating truth that the choices he makes now will help determine the course of his future. While a career choice needn't be set in stone -- most adults change careers at least once -- a parent can help his fledgling choose wisely. The parent can best help not by providing unsolicited advice but by offering "respect and support," according to KidsHealth.org.

Control Tower to Fledgling

While the temptation to direct may be powerful -- you know your child better than anyone, probably better than she knew herself for many years -- pry your grip off the controls. One of the main developmental tasks of adolescence is strengthening decision-making and problem-solving skills, according to KidsHealth.org. Charting your adolescent's career for her will likely backfire in the long run because you will cheat her of the choice, and if it doesn't work out, she might blame you. Her decision-making skills are improving throughout adolescence, and come solo flight time, she should be ready to make smart choices. Because adolescents tend to work hard toward goals they consider worth their time, allowing her to choose her own career increases her odds of success.

Help Connect the Dots

Step back to let your teen make his own career choice, but not so far you're not supporting his quest. A parent can do much to help him connect the dots between a career and his interests, values and dreams. You've done a great job helping your adolescent choose a career if you've modeled a sense of hope for the future, discussed values and allowed your teen to question, because doing so strengthens his sense of purpose and optimism, according to the Michigan State University Extension. Listen to your teen's dreams for the future; feeling heard brings courage and strength, attributes your career-choosing teen needs.

Shine a Light

"Teens need parental guidance in gathering information and assessing how personal characteristics and dreams fit with specific educational and career possibilities," reports MSU Extension. Shine a broad, balanced light on your child's career exploration: Help her find resources that reveal a larger picture, including career guidance counselors, vocational interest tests, websites, books, librarians, job-shadowing programs, people who have careers of interest and occupational associations.

Confront Challenges

If your adolescent knows in his heart what he wants to do for a living, help him find ways to do it. He can learn skills, but perhaps something bigger stands in the way: He wants to be a lawyer, for example, but is afraid of public speaking. Don't dismiss his decision; ask if he's thought about the challenges and how he will overcome them. Sometimes all he needs is the right motivation. If psychological issues are blocking your child's choices, seek counseling. If there's a developmental issue, such as a learning disability, help your child explore solutions or alternatives. If a physical characteristic stands in the way of his chosen career, help him explore options such as surgical correction or a related career. If education holds a daunting price tag, explore financial aid, from federal and state governments to related associations to the school itself.

Ease the Pressure

"Try not to push teens into making decisions too early ... ," advises MSU Extension. "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." Practice patience even if your teen changes her career choice frequently. Your understanding and positive influence will help her get through this transitional time, reminds KidsHealth.

The Bottom Line

The greatest negative effect a parent can have an adolescent's career choice is choosing it for him. No matter how well-intentioned the parent, the child must work at this career day after day. The greatest positive effect a parent can have on an adolescent's career is to provide support during the exploration process.



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