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How to support your child as they explore their interests

As you begin to acquaint yourself with university and degrees throughout your child’s learning journey, study options will seem endless. There are so many courses to consider, with a whole new class of careers on the table.

As a parent, you’ll want to help your child make the ‘right’ choices, but what if the choice you perceive as right isn’t right for them? More than anyone, you understand your child’s strengths, what they enjoy and what makes them tick. Instead of valuing your own preconceived notions of the perfect study path, career and life, try to guide your child to explore their own interests and skills.  

Here are some tips to help keep you on track and ultimately, support your child through the process of mapping out their own future.  

Support, don’t hover.  

Fight the urge to take control – your role throughout this process is to support them and provide guidance when required. Ask your child how you can help them on their journey, exploring their interests and future beyond high school, and take these actions before stepping back and giving them some space. You can guarantee your children will feel valued, respected and more willing to explore their passions when they know their future is in their own hands.  

Identify strengths, not careers.  

Rather than taking a career focus, chat to your child about their self-identified strengths. The key here is to do what psychologists call ‘strength spotting’. Since you know your child best, you can help them to identify the areas they excel in at a micro level – it’s very likely there are traits and skills they possess that they’re unable to acknowledge without help, whether that’s due to a lack of awareness, feeling embarrassed or experiencing self-doubt. Then, let your child make the leap to specific careers and fields on their own.  

Try not to get overexcited and start tying their strengths to possible careers – put your bias aside and let them make these links themselves. Chances are, they’ve already got options in mind and may have a better understanding of their skills and future plans than you think.  

Push passion, not prestige.  

Fan the flames of your child’s passions. We should all love – or at least like – what we do, and working in a field or industry we’re passionate about means that each day feels less like work and can be more fulfilling on the whole. Be careful, once again, not to push your child towards a particular field or coveted job. Ask yourself, “Do I want my child to make me happy or for them to be happy?” and let this inform every move you make throughout this complicated process.  

Get them acquainted, but don’t speak for them.  

Talk to your child about your own job and introduce them to the career world as early as you can. It’s important they learn about resumes, cover letters, job applications, interviews, salaries and all the other things that make up working life. Encourage them to seek out opportunities, to gain experience and to take charge – but don’t speak on their behalf. Your job is to simply equip them with the tools they’ll need to find their own voice and use it to steer their future aspirations. 

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