Move over parental expectations, kids today have a mind of their own and are remarkably sorted.
Once upon a time at their young child’s mention of a career choice, our earlier laid-back generation would smile knowingly, nod and wait for the sun to rise the next morning on a new career choice. Not today’s parents who recognize exactly what their child is up against. The present world is a competitive cauldron, and as parents they will do whatever it takes to ensure their child gets a head start and assure them ultimate career success.
Why Children Need to Make Career Choices?
In his book, Under Pressure: Rescuing Our Children from the Culture of Hyper-Parenting, author Carl Honore acknowledges the need for children to be left alone and given room to be themselves. Among many other things mentioned, he urges parents to allow children to spend time outdoors, to have aspirations, and writes, “Children need space to take risk and make mistakes.” Shweta Sharan, previously a counsellor at ‘I Love Mondays,' which counsels children on careers, now works independently with schools, students and parents in Bangalore, observed during her career counselling sessions that children are eager to explore different options, while parents prefer them to be sorted with a long-term plan in place.
Shweta Sharan, Counselor“It is important to have long-term goals but not set in stone and a child should be given the freedom to discover his/her interests along the way.”
Understanding Your Child’s Career Choice
Knowing the reason for your child’s career choice is a good way to understand if your child is serious or their choice will change with the direction of the wind. Choices inspired by a recent trend, because peers are taking it up or because it seems like an easy route to big bucks and fame is surely not based on firm reasoning. But a choice made on what the child enjoys, sometimes a choice to follow in their parent’s footsteps owing to inherent talent or because the child is aware what the job entails, might seem more reasonable.
While parent’s support is indispensable at every level, Chandrika R. Krishnan, a certified counsellor and educator for over two decades believes it’s also important to lay bare the facts of life before them, and says, ‘Let children know that responsibility and rights go hand in hand. Once they take responsibility to do well in that chosen field it is their responsibility.’
To this, Sharan adds, “A parent should encourage a child's desire for a career choice but should also exercise pragmatism about the path ahead.”
These counsellors recommend parents take the following approach while attempting to make sense of their child’s career choice:
- Provide unconditional support, irrespective of career choice.
- Apprenticeships and internships are good ways to gauge a child’s interest and dedication towards their career choice.
- Be realistic and explain the pros and cons of their career choice.
- Without being discouraging, inform children about the hard work the particular career entails.
How to Motivate and Not Overwhelm Your Child?
How to motivate your child, and what constitutes pressure that will overwhelm them and result in burnout – is a tricky equation parents need to crack. “I believe in the adage that there is no gain without a modicum of pain. I also feel that children should be made to understand that they need to work to the best of their own ability and potential. Many children perform far lesser than they are capable of performing be it in sports or academics, which is a shame considering that it is a wasted resource or talent,’ says Krishnan.
Foreseeing a change in our current attitude towards career and work, Sharan says that the ‘Future of Work’ will be all about cross-disciplinary skills and innovations. She urges parents to let children explore variety of interests but cautions against viewing every interest as a possible career choice. “A child who loves photography or food need not become a photographer or a chef. Let
children explore interests and hobbies for their own sake, for skills and passions and build relationships and be part of communities,” says Sharan.
Prevent Burnout in Children
A child’s schedule is packed with activities be it hobbies or extra-curriculars meant to hone their abilities. Apart from parental and peer pressure, today’s children are also straddled with their own need to surpass others. This can overwhelm them and lead to burnout in children.
Krishnan recommends these five measures to prevent burnout and help children stay active and healthy.
- A fun activity or an outing to break the monotony.
- Family time together like the daily family dinner, a TV programme watched together sans volume blaring, or a movie once a week works well for downtime.
- A rejuvenating walk or run around the park or to the beach.
- Enjoy thirty minutes to an hour of exercise or play any sport without being competitive.
- The occasional family function shouldn’t be skipped and parents should encourage children to socialize.
(Lesley D Biswas is a freelance writer who writes articles on parenting, environment, travel and women, besides fiction.)
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