Career counseling sounds very dry. But it is the bridge to allow you, as the parent, to enjoy precious moments of raising your kids.
Like this one:
It’s a rare break in the busy shuffle when you get a window to start a conversation with your child on their verge of adulthood. You ask, “What are you now considering you might want to do after college?”
“Yeah, I’ve actually been thinking about it a lot, and I would really love to be a fight choreographer.”
You have keep yourself from demonstrably dropping your head into your hands.
You imagine your son or daughter struggling month-by-month to make a living.
You see such promise in them: insight, compassion, creativity, intelligence, commitment.
But a fight choreographer, while incredibly cool sounding, doesn’t seem like something that will open many doors for financial stability, impact on the greater good, or long-term fulfillment.
How do you encourage your kids’ dreams when reality tells you they are probably limiting?
An Un-win-able Trap
It can feel like you are stuck in a Catch-22.
On one hand, if you encourage your kids to go after “pie-in-the-sky” dreams, or even practical dreams that you know are financially limiting, you may feel like you did them a disservice if they are struggling or “lost” later in life.
You have a perspective that your kids cannot have yet. You have been exposed to the world of college and business in a way they simply don’t know. You know what debt feels like. You know what it’s like to feel disillusioned.
On the other, you fear that if your discourage your kids, they won’t dare to dream and later could resent you for not being supportive. Or they will stop sharing with you.
The world is changing. People are making quite good money as beard advisors and fart app developers. Things you thought were total dead-ends are making people financially abundant. Moreover, these people seem really happy. Your attempt to look out for your kids could end up being what holds them back.
It has been your job to look out for your kids, and you know that your influence is not as powerful as it used to be, so you want to handle this in the best way.
What do you do?
Stuck In “Either/Or”
In the “Either/Or” Mentality, you either encourage them or discourage them.
Either you are right or they are.
Either you live with passion or without it.
“Either/Or” limits our options. It also creates adversarial relationships because you are either with them or against them. This mentality builds resentment, restricts innovation, and leads to disappointment. It’s a game you can’t win.
But there is another way.
Adopt A “Yes, And…” Approach
What started in improvisational comedy, this method of acknowledging others ideas and building on them creatively. You can apply it to helping your kids find direction.
Affirm the ideas & dreams your kids have while helping them broaden the vision to consider more possibilities.
When you use “Yes, And…” with your kids, they feel heard, affirmed, and taken seriously. Plus, you get to share your reservations and help them learn more about the world.
It’s not about shutting down. It’s about adding to.
Here’s What It Sounds Like
Parent: Do you have any ideas of what you might want to do after college?
Kid: Yeah, I’ve actually been thinking about it a lot, and I would really love to be a fight choreographer.
Parent: Wow! That does sound cool! Yes, you would be great at that. You know, I want to make sure you are really happy. Because that’s an awfully specific skill set, I wouldn’t want you to box yourself into a corner and not have other options if you wanted to change your direction later.
Kid: Hmmm. Well, I don’t know what else I’d do.
Parent: Ok, I get that. Do you mind if I ask you a question?
Parent: When you really think about it, why do you think you would really like being a fight choreographer?
Kid: I dunno. I just think it would be cool.
Parent: I do, too. But what I might think is cool might be different than what you think is cool. I’m wondering what specifically you think would be cool about it.
Kid: Well, when I got to choreograph a fight for my school’s play, it felt so cool. I’ve been doing Tae Kwon Do for a long time, so I knew a lot. But I could be really creative. Then I got to use all my perfectionistic tendencies and play around until it got to be awesome. I liked that I was so proud of it.
Parent: So what I heard you say is that you like to do something you know a lot about and can also be really creative. You want to use all your perfectionistic tendencies and play around until something is awesome and you are proud of it. Is that right?
Parent: Well, I agree. I’ve seen you do that with a number of different situations, and you are very good at it. Do you think you can only do that as a fight choreographer?
Kid: No, I guess not.
Parent: If you could find a different way to do something you know a lot about, be creative, be a perfectionist, and play around until you find a solution that makes you proud, how would that feel?
Kid: Well, I love Tae Kwon Do.
Parent: I know! You don’t ever have to give that up. Could you add something else to your life that could allow you keep doing Tae Kwon Do and have a career where you get to be a creative, perfectionistic expert?
Kid: That would be awesome. But what would that be?
Parent: I don’t know every possibility, but if you’re open to exploring to find them, we can do that. Now that we know the key experience you want, we can just find the particular thing you might want to be an expert in.
Kid: That would be cool!
Be the General Contractor — Hire the Sub-Contractors
An expert in career counseling you are not. And even if you, DO NOT hire yourself to provide career counseling to your own kid.
Now is the time to be the one who identifies needs and calls in others to do the heavy-lifting.
At the core of adolescence, the child needs to decrease their dependence on the parents. To do so, they must bond with other adults and peers.
The best thing you can do is connect your child with adults who can provide expert guidance. These experts should never tell you or your kids what to do. They should provide you both with information and strategies that develop your confidence.
Career counseling lays out financial and practical realities. It identifies the talents, superpowers, and interests of the client. The client is guided to research and create relationships with others who have experience in the fields they may consider in more depth.
By allowing the career counselor to guide students in exploring and uncovering reality for themselves, parents avoid being the ones to “break their kids hearts” or “dissolve their dreams.”
As a result, kids’ dreams actually become more clear and their motivation grows.
Parents also get to enjoy the process with significantly less stress, knowing a trusted advisor is systematically shepherding their child.
As the general contractor, then, your job is to identify and interview who you will trust to guide and look out for the long-term plans of your child.
We hope you will thoughtfully consider Off-Trail On Purpose College Advisors for your child’s future.
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