Prep for Parenting Your Modern Family

Posted on September 17th, 2018, 0 Comments

Nudge Your Teen to Look into the Future

Parents often ask me what they can do to help their teen take school more seriously. My response varies, depending on the kid. For some encouraging their teen to get more sleep is at the top of my list. For others, it’s to get them involved in a school-related extracurricular activity.

And regardless of what else is on my list of suggestions, I also recommend that they nudge their teen to look into the future. Because having some vision of where they are headed – even if their vision changes multiple times – seems to benefit all teens.

Years ago while teaching seventh grade, I watched some students work hard and do well (persevering even when things got difficult or tedious) while some of their more naturally talented classmates did not. Most of the time the persevering students had a guiding purpose – a long-term goal that they were working towards that acted like a guiding North Star for them.

A decade later while teaching at the college level, I noticed something similar. Some of my students saw college as an end in itself. Others came to college with an idea of what they might do for their work life and saw college as part of that path. The students who had an idea of where they were headed seemed to have an advantage over their more ambivalent peers. Students with a career path plan – even if they changed their mind and headed in a different direction more than once – had a guiding purpose that gave them a reason to get to their early morning classes, work harder on the required coursework, and graduate on time.

Try This
As the new school year begins, nudge your teen to take a look into the future and develop some vision of where they are headed.

Talk with your teen about their current interests and strengths. Encourage them to make lists of the things they like to do, the things they like to learn, the things they value, and the things they’re good at – perhaps even better than most kids their age. Then talk with them about how their combination of interests and strengths might be used in a career someday.

Encourage your teen to explore their career interests. Informational interviews and job shadowing are great ways for teens to learn more about a career that interests them from someone with real life experience. Both also can help teens see how what they are learning in school can be applied in the real world.

Informational interviews are 20 to 30 minute conversations in which students have an opportunity to gather information about a specific career by talking with a professional and asking questions about what it’s like to work in their field and what it took to get where they are today. You can read more about informational interviewing and how to develop interview questions here.

Job shadowing lets students try on a career by visiting a workplace and following a professional through their workday. A job shadow usually lasts one day but they can last several days or longer to give a student a more in-depth look at a certain career. You can learn more about job shadowing here.

Many professionals are willing to help with informational interviews and shadowing. Some school guidance offices have lists of professionals in the community who have volunteered to help. Your network of family and friends is another good place to look.

Bottom Line
Teens who regularly think about what they want to do with their life and what kind of person they want to become, have a better sense of direction. They may change their mind and head in a different direction more than once. But at any given time they can articulate in a sentence or two where they are headed and what everything they are doing is all about.

Teens with a vision of where they are headed tend to take school and their other activities seriously. And instead of being discouraged by setbacks, they tend to take charge of their problems and persevere – and are, thus, less likely to get off track.

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