19 September, 2017

HOW TO HELP (AND NOT HINDER) YOUR CHILD

Your child will probably turn to you first for help in navigating the career maze. There’s plenty you can do. But there’s one vitally important thing to remember…

You’re a parent or carer. No-one is more anxious than you that your child makes something of their life. And the good news is that you’ll be the single biggest influence on their thoughts and feelings when they come to weigh up the pros and cons of going to uni, moving straight into work or doing something in between.

Whether or not they listen to what you say is a different matter, and we’ll come to that, but let’s start on a positive note. There’s a multitude of things you can do at a time when your child’s head is being turned in all kinds of directions.

Talk to your child about possible careers from time to time, but don’t make a big deal out of or turn it into a lecture. There are plenty of opportunities for ‘careers’ and an exchange of ideas to drop easily into everyday conversations so the subject doesn’t seem forced.

It’s all about keeping as many options open as possible until your child decides what they really want to do. Finding a career path they love is often a long process of self-discovery during which they find out what really interests them and what they are best at. Be patient and encourage your child to keep learning more about themselves. Make sure they have access to a variety of activities and see what piques their interest. Challenge them to move out of their comfort zone. If there’s something they are particularly curious about, encourage them to learn more about the subject.

It’s never too soon to start thinking about the future. Building up a bank of experiences can be as beneficial from year 9. Remind your child to record all work experience placements and part-time jobs, and gain references from them. Positions of responsibility at school and taking part in out-of-school activities will also help later on in creating a good impression with course tutors or employers.

Networking is important, too. Help your child to explore possible employers, apprenticeship schemes and educational opportunities in your local area; keep an eye out for local open days or careers fairs. If their school has a careers advisor or careers library, make sure your child takes advantage of what’s available. You can also encourage your child to talk to family members and friends about their careers.

Above all, be open-minded and objective. Your child is a unique person. They are not you. Or a mini-you. Don’t assume they will automatically want to follow your academic route and move into the same career as you. Something in a job that might be a big turn-off for you might be a big turn-on for your child. Resist the temptation to tell them to avoid a certain path because it’s something that doesn’t interest you. Forget this crucial fact and your child is likely to switch off, any good advice you have to offer shunned.

You should also stay up to date. The world moves on, options for young people change, jobs are open to them that didn’t exist a decade ago, particularly in fields like technology. There’s plenty online to help you.

It could well be that – after being open-minded and objective – you still feel that your child is proposing a path to which they’re unsuited. Okay, becoming famous by winning ‘The X Factor’ might not be a realistic ambition, but don’t be too quick to rule out a certain career option. Take a more lateral stance at how your child’s strengths and personality could make a valuable contribution in that field.

Finally, remember that it’s your child’s future. There’s a fine line between giving guidance and support and taking over. Be prepared to let go. Up until 16 many educational decisions will have been made for them. Now might be the time to allow them a measure of independence.

Inside M&S