How to help kids find their thing
For teenagers, working out their “thing” can be a frustrating. Figuring out what to do after school is a journey, but it’s not always easy.
As kids move into the last year or two of high school, all anyone asks is what they’ll do when they finish. For those who’ve worked it out, the answer comes in a snap. But for those who have no idea, it can stir up plenty of anxiety. And as the days of school wind down, that stress just keeps ramping up.
We all want our kids to have a great grown up life. For them to find their “thing”, and run with it. If only we could speed up that process.
“Find that thing you are super passionate about.”
Helping kids find their thing
At the start of my last year of school I wanted to be a doctor. It was clear as the year went along that my grades were not going to make that possible. Or the pathway was going to be a winding one.
In a meeting with a guidance counsellor they suggested social work. Having no idea what it was, that’s what I put down on the form. And twenty years later I don’t regret the departure from medicine. But I also wonder what would have happened if I’d made my own decision.
Today, the options are so much greater.
There are many pathways to university and many roads to the workforce. And for some kids, that can be part of the problem. The choice becomes overwhelming.
If you have a child still looking for their thing, here’s ten strategies to help them through this anxious time:
- Let go of your own dreams. We don’t make our kids happy by forcing them into careers we’ve done or would have liked. Give them space to be their own person and forge their unique adventure in life.
- Be open to new ideas. We live in a changing world with new jobs coming and old ones going at a rapid pace. Kids who say they want to be professional gamers could make a lucrative career out of it, so don’t shut the idea down. Just encourage them to look broader too.
- Forget the “one size fits all” approach. There’s no longer the same expectations on kids as there used to be. The idea that kids who couldn’t cope with university went into a trade has gone. Now many tradesman earning more than professionals and it’s just another career option. Our kids need to believe that there’s some jobs in their future that they’re going to love and prosper in.
- Recognise that it’s a process. One of trial and error. We have to give kids room to try things out and decided they don’t like it or even mess up. Mistakes are part of working out who they are and what makes them tick.
- Open the door to new opportunities. You never know what will spark a child’s dreams. Look for ways to introduce them to different jobs and ways of working. Who knows where it will lead!
- Be encouraging. Remain optimistic when they get down. You can expect waves of anxiety when the pressure of choosing subjects or courses gets closer.
“Every kid’s a genious at something. Our job is to find it and then encourage it.” – Robin Sharma
- Buy time. If your child isn’t ready or panics at the thought of making a choice, suggest an alternative. Having a gap year can be a great way for them to gain some perspective and test drive a few options. Or they can jump into a TAFE course and get started on their first career while they work out their next.
- Foster an entrepreneurial spirit. As I’ve written before, our kids are going to be working in an economy that favours the courageous and clever. With disruptive industries popping up all over the place, our kids will need to be resourceful workers who can follow the shifting trends.
- Encourage interests, passions and wonders. Some of the little things that spark our kid’s interests can be the core of their future career.
- Talk up the idea of a few “things”. All the research suggest that our kids are likely to have around seven careers in their life. That means that it’s unlikely that they need to have just one thing and could chase after a few.
There’s plenty of time for kids to choose their thing, even if it doesn’t feel like it. Helping them to enjoy their last years of school and adolescence are far more important than nailing down a career. So don’t let it be a bad experience. Make sure your kids see the process as part of the adventure of working out who they are and what their purpose is.
What do you think? Do your kids grapple with working out their thing? What’s worked for you?