Our duty as parents isn’t only to raise our children well, but also to help enable them to become self-sufficient in life. Ciska Thurman seeks advice on how best to unlock future career prospects
Hannah wants to be a ballet teacher when she grows up. She wants to wear pink and twirl all day long. Hannah is four years old. Over the next decade or so, she may often refashion her profession based on her peer group, her subjects at school or images in the media. At what stage should her parents intervene, and fuel or snuff the flame? Should they interfere at all? What practical steps can they take to fulfil Hannah’s career ambitions?
‘Practically speaking, learners must choose all of their matric subjects by Grade 10, aged 15 or 16,’ says life coach Claire Holden. ‘For most tertiary courses, there are certain prerequisite matric subjects, and the points needed to qualify for admission to university need to be taken into account.’
But narrowing down fields of interest, and ensuring that our kids think about their future careers both consistently and realistically, starts at a much younger age.
Claire elaborates: ‘So much of our children’s success depends on the messages we are giving them throughout their upbringing. If we don’t talk to them about our careers and the work necessary to buy a house and a car, to pay bills and afford school fees and holidays, we can’t expect them to think about and ponder their future careers and incomes.
‘We need to teach our kids the value of hard work, the rewards of ambition and the importance of setting goals and planning ahead,’ says Claire.
Shaping a career path starts with conversations around the value of money and the responsibility that comes with adulthood. Working towards career goals with a clear vision in mind also means being flexible as circumstances change. Claire shares some practical ways to help your children identify and achieve their career goals.
Pay day Create awareness of all the expenses an adult incurs by giving your kids an allowance that has to cover their toiletries, clothes and entertainment. To step it up a notch, you could increase the pot of money and encourage them to make contributions towards rent, food and other household bills. This will teach them the importance of budgeting, as well as planning a long-term career that can support their lifestyle aspirations.
Praise the effort, not the outcome When your little one does well at something, instead of ‘That’s brilliant, you are so clever!’, say ‘I love the picture and I can see you worked hard on it’. Learning the value of hard work will set them up for a lifetime of professional development.
Listen, don’t lecture Listen actively to what they want out of their life and career and reassure them that, as long as they try their best, you’ll always support them. Unconditional encouragement goes a long way to empowering your children for future success.
Teach them to love a challenge Do this by showing your children that we learn the most when tasks are difficult – hardship is actually an opportunity to grow.
Demonstrate commitment Explain that failure is not necessarily a dead end, but that it can be a stepping stone on the path to success. If they are not chosen for the soccer team in the first trials, don’t let them quit. Teach them that with perseverance and consistent practice, they may make the team next time.
Get real Share genuine stories about people who have excelled after derision – Michael Jordan and Pablo Picasso, for example. And visit potential institutions for furthering education (attend university open days, arrange a holiday internship or mentorship in their desired field of work).
Avoid the pitfall, as a parent, of projecting your career ambitions on to your children. And if they come to you with big, bold dreams, don’t automatically discourage them. ‘If, in 1960, US President John F Kennedy hadn’t had the dream that by 1970 man would’ve walked on the moon, it may never have happened,’ says Claire. ‘Electric lights, motor vehicles, computers and the internet are all the result of some seriously ambitious career dreams.
‘While it’s crucial to ensure your children realise the challenges their dreams may pose, and are brought up to be resilient enough to manage the multiple disappointments that ambitious dreams may bring, often parents just need to believe in their children as much as they believe in themselves,’ says Claire.
‘Innovation is a result of a creative mind that has been nurtured and encouraged by brave parents, and is never achieved by those playing it safe.’