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How to Talk with Your Kids About Their Future

Amber Brandt  |  March 09, 2020

When you were a kid, what did you want to grow up to be? Maybe you requested a fireman’s costume for play time, dreamed of becoming a professional dancer, or spent one whole summer searching the backyard for dinosaur bones. As children, our imaginations were endless, and reality was no obstacle. Your child is the same way.

Many adults lightheartedly ask young kids “what do you want to be when you grow up?” and are amused by the responses they get. But what if you could begin to shape those conversations in a way that really took the child seriously, helping them to begin thinking about options for their professional future?

Research shows that many children begin realizing the importance of choosing a good career path at age 10, while others find themselves graduating from high school and just beginning to explore the idea. Generation Z (today’s 0- to 18-year-olds) has been called the most stressed generation to date because of the information-heavy world we live in. According to Dr. Michael Leahy, “Today’s typical high school student endures the same anxiety levels as a psychiatric patient did in the early 1950s.” In other words, no matter how your child thinks about the future, they could use your help.

Here are five questions from the Education Quest Foundation you can ask to talk about the future with your child:

  1. What are your dreams for the future?
  2. What makes you feel anxious about the future?
  3. If you wrote a blog/book/TV series, what would it be about?
  4. I wonder what it would be like to… (react to careers you see in real time. For instance, if you’re watching a cooking show with your child, wonder about their creativity aloud and ask your child if that’s something they’re interested in.).
  5. How can I help you…?

These questions may initially elicit surface-level answers pertaining to whatever your child is taken with at the moment, but your goal is to listen for common themes below the surface. What is motivating their response – a desire to help people? A deep interest in the arts? A curiosity about the physical world?

One of the best ways to track these themes is to take notes of your discussion and make this a regular practice throughout your student’s childhood and teen years. By compiling the data, you’ll be able to help them notice repeating interests and talents and identify key motivators.

Your child is uniquely wired, but you can help them explore professions that will play to their skills and interests ... while setting them up for a lifetime of fulfillment and success.