Teens are faced with tough decisions as their high school education ends. Do they continue their education at a university or technical school? What employment opportunities do they want to pursue? Are marriage and family immediate options?
Success is important to most American adults. Sometimes, the competitive rush for success can cloud a teenager's thinking about education and employment beyond high school.
Reactions to these competitive challenges tend to fall between two extremes.
On one hand, a young person may be so focused on achieving a single goal that other good alternatives are ignored. Other young adults lack a vision for their future and tend to "drift" into schools or jobs that offer the path of least resistance.
Parents can help by being a centering force. Here are some ideas to move your teen toward a healthy, well-rounded life.
- Recognize and point out your teen's abilities. Note the things your teen does well, and talk about these things in a positive light. This feedback helps shape the positive sense of self that leads to sound career choices.
- Stress the importance of good choices. Not choosing also is a choice. Teens should be helped to recognize that "drifting" today may mean financial hardship later.
- Be aware of interests. Suggest careers that dovetail with your teen's natural talents and areas of interest. Discourage a single-minded focus on status or income when choosing a career path. Help your teen find out more about jobs that sound interesting.
- Work with a guidance counselor. Encourage your teen to use the resources in the high school guidance office. Meet with the counselor yourself, if possible, to discuss test scores, school grades and possible educational choices.
- Use aptitude tests. Most school guidance offices offer tests that can show the direction of a teen's natural skills and interests. They cannot offer ultimate career answers but may suggest directions to explore.
- Encourage your teen to become involved in community service projects or volunteer positions as a way to explore future career opportunities. Volunteer opportunities are available in many areas of Children's Hospital and Health System. Placements are determined by the volunteer's availability and the organization's need. To volunteer at Children' s Hospital of Wisconsin, a six-month commitment of a minimum of two hours per week is required, and volunteers must be at least 16 years old. Call (414) 266-2180 for more information about volunteering at Children's Hospital. Volunteers also are needed for fundraising events in the community. Call (414) 266-6100 for information.
- Share your perspective, then step back. Your opinion matters, but what matters most is offering the freedom to make an adult choice. A good choice here sets the stage for many good ones to come.