When it’s time to choose university courses, many teens are at a loss for words. The idea of selecting a subject that will define their future is anxiety-inducing, to say the least, and can leave some students paralysed. In some cases, your child might not have a clue as to what they want to select while others may be torn between two (or more) fields of study.
Career choices and education are a major concern for many parents; therefore, the need to talk about choices with their children should be done as soon as possible to keep communication open and honest.
If you are a concerned parent looking for tips on how to talk to your kids about university courses, career guidance and everything in-between, keep reading to find out more about the support that parents can give young students as well as the option of having a Superprof tutor to help out with career advice.
Careers Australia: What to Do If My Kid Doesn't Know What to Study?
"What do you want to be when you grow up?" This is probably a question you have asked your kid a thousand times over the course of their lives. When they are young their answer might be something like "astronaut" or "superhero" but once they are older and are actually on a path to finding their purpose in life, they may feel completely lost and unsure of what to do.
Finding purpose can be a lifelong endeavour. What is purpose? William Damon, director of the Stanford Center on Adolescence, defines purpose as “a stable and generalized intention to accomplish something that is at the same time meaningful to the self and consequential for the world beyond the self.” Based on the Center’s research, Heather Malin, director of research, says the key time for purpose is the 18 – 23 age range.
This is why the post-secondary age is so important to young people and why parents should play an active and supportive role in their children's lives if they want to see them build purpose.
Since it’s a difficult time in everyone’s lives, even some of us adults wish we could forget who we were as a teenager, it is essential that parents guide their children towards making a decision about their futures and their careers rather than leaving them alone to decide.
If you as a parent find yourself in a complicated situation where your teenager or kid doesn't quite know what to do in terms of university courses or the careers Australia has to offer, it is important that you foster the skills and knowledge to help guide them through this difficult time in their young lives.
To help them along this journey, here are some tips for making the process easier:
- Incentivise them to sign up for high school activities: high school students actually have some opportunities that can allow them to explore possible university courses before they commit to a particular program (or even a specific university).
- See their electives and favourite subjects and focus on their interest: this will help them try classes that fit their interests or could apply to a particular college major. For example, if they want to see if an art degree is the right choice for them, they can focus on art classes in secondary school. If they don’t like it, then they know it is better to move on to other opportunities. It is a good idea to encourage them to select a class that can help them choose a major because the more they learn about their likes and dislikes now, the easier it will be.
- Class auditing: some colleges and universities will allow others to sit in on classes, a process known as auditing, to help them see what the course is like. Typically, people can attend for free. This not only shows them what is required to begin pursuing a particular career but also gives them valuable insight into the university experience.
- Job Shadowing: another real-life idea is to shadow professionals working in various fields. This allows your child to see what it is like to work in certain jobs or industries and may make it easier to decide whether certain university courses is the right move.
Remember that young adults are in a time of their life when many questions, ideas, and insecurities can emerge. It is at this time when you can help them think about the meaning of what they do and what they are interested in.
Find out more about the cost of educational guidance.
How to Effectively Communicate Around University Courses
Another problem that can come in the process of your kid choosing the right university courses for them has more to do with their attitude towards the task than the actual task itself.
They might see it as something daunting, boring or completely overwhelming. Some young people prefer not to go to university in lieu of going through the whole process of getting career guidance and applying to schools.
That said, not everything is lost. You can try using some tips from psychology experts on communicating with young people and see if, little by little, you start making progress and getting your message across.
- Listen. If you are curious about what’s going on in your teen’s life, asking direct questions might not be as effective as simply sitting back and listening. Kids are more likely to be open with their parents if they don’t feel pressured to share information.
- Start with understanding, even when you don't understand. No matter how hard it might be, try to start all interactions with your child with understanding, even if you don’t fully agree or even quite comprehend what they’re talking about.
- Give them opportunities instead of having a sit-down conversation with your kid, try to keep communication channels open all the time. Encourage them to spend time with you while you do different activities like cooking, cleaning or something that allows for a chat. This will give you a bit of time to talk without pressure. Family mealtimes are also a good way to make sure that everyone is coming together for a chat on a regular basis.
- Validate their feelings. It is often parents' tendency to try to solve problems for our kids or downplay their disappointments. Show kids that you understand and empathise by reflecting the comment back with something like: “Wow, that does sound difficult.”
- Don’t get emotional or take it personally. Emotion can be your enemy when you’re trying to get through to your teen. Remind yourself that what he or she says and does is not a reflection on you. You may not like how he’s behaving but you need to make sure that you keep your emotions out of it, even if their behaviour impacts you.
- Ask why, but don’t make judgements. Pointing out that a particular piece of behaviour was stupid is not the best start to a conversation. Instead, it is best to assume that your child had a reason for their actions, and ask them about it. It is important to keep an open mind about why they made that choice and try to understand their thinking process.
- Show trust. Teens want to be taken seriously, especially by their parents. Look for ways to show that you trust your teen. Asking them for a favour shows that you rely on them.
- Ask your teen for their ideas and be collaborative. Let them see that you believe in them and that you’re not mad at them for struggling in their life, especially if it is around university courses and career guidance.
- Be there to help. Even though they are trying to establish their own identity, teenagers need to know that you are still there. Use questions such as: “Can I do anything to help?” or “Is there anything that you would like me to do?”
- Be observant. It’s normal for kids to go through some changes as they mature, but pay attention if you notice changes to their mood, behaviour, energy level, or appetite. Likewise, take note if they stop wanting to do things that used to make them happy, or if you notice them isolating themselves. If you see a change in your teen’s daily ability to function, ask them about it and be supportive (without being judgmental).
Try these tips out with your teenager and see if there is a change in behaviour or attitude towards thinking about their career. Remember that feeling safe and trusted is important to them and that they need to understand that there is room for error.
Career Guidance: Use Your Own Experience
As a kid, you probably didn't know your parent's day-to-day work schedule or how long business meetings ran. This creates a secret aura around parents' occupations. When dealing with a teenager who doesn't really have clarity about what they want to do with their life, starting by sharing your own professional story can be a great start.
You can start by talking about the importance of work and how you are passionate about it. For example, enjoying your work can make you a happier and healthier person. That's an important lesson for them to learn. Also, a good job lets the family go on vacation, pay for school and meals and buy clothes and toys.
If you start the conversation this way, your child will understand that your job isn't just an important part of your life, but of theirs well. This is a way for them to realise the importance of having an occupation and how the right career guidance can help them discover their own passion just like you.
Showing them that you have passion for your own career is a hugely effective way for them to understand the importance of choosing the right path for themselves. Show them that it makes you happy, despite ups and downs.
Another important thing you can talk about is your history. Tell them how you came to be in the professional place that you are in at the moment, all the steps you needed to take, the lessons you learned and everything in between. Talking about issues like this from a personal point of view is way more effective since it will get them involved in the narrative.
When helping your child with their career choices, make sure you don't make these mistakes.
Careers Australia: Let Your Children Be
There are many things that happen during the teenage years that have to do with rebellion and finding oneself. They are looking for freedom and forming their own opinion around things. You can use this drive for freedom to your advantage if you channel it correctly, it only takes the right tools.
These are some tips you can use in order to help your teen gain confidence and freedom while also maintaining a level of awareness and presence in their decisions:
- Work off established trust: by the teen years, you’ve likely already established a baseline level of trust with your child, and you probably already have a good idea about how responsible, reliable and mature your teenager is. Slowly and steadily allow your teen opportunities to increase your level of trust. When they prove themselves trustworthy, increase their freedom. When you build this trust level, they will start feeling more confident to make decisions about their career knowing that they trust the way that they think and act.
- Outline your expectations: the boundaries you set for your child should be based on reasons that are clearly communicated to them. Make it clear that if they respect these reasons and meet your expectations, you will be happy to extend their boundaries and the freedom they have. You may want to let them know that with freedom comes responsibility and there will be consequences for times when they don’t comply with the boundaries you agreed on.
- Be involved: take an active role in your teen’s life. Know what their interests are, attend sports games and school events, and make a point to talk to your teen daily about what they’re up to.
- Include your child in big decisions that affect their lives: especially when it comes to university courses and anything related to school. If they help make these decisions they are more likely to honour them and it will give them a sense of control over their lives.
Another good way to get them excited and involved with their future and school is to introduce them to the different options they have available for them.
Sometimes teens tend to see a very small fraction of the immense possibilities that they can have and it is good that you present them with the careers Australia has to offer at the different universities and schools.
To give you a head start, here are some of the careers Australia you can share with your teen:
- Business and Management: Business schools in Australia are internationally renowned and have a pivotal focus on the Asia-Pacific region, providing and equipping students with a global perspective.
- Medicine: Australian medical degrees often include clinical practise in the programme as well as problem-solving and self-directed learning. Getting a medical degree in Australia generally requires 5-6 years to complete. Australian medical qualifications are recognised worldwide and admission to medicine in Australia is highly competitive.
- Accounting: Students gain professional status via an accredited university course, work experience and further study. Australian-qualified accountants often find employment overseas.
- Architecture & Planning: They visit proposed building sites, analyze their requirements, and review land-use bylaws as well as other codes and regulations. They work with construction companies on costs, construction schedules and site supervision.
- Art & Design: Artistic jobs exist across many different sectors, allowing individuals to blend their creativity with technical skills. Design and art professionals work in nearly every industry, creating media and design products that appeal to consumers.
- Sociologists: Sociologists are professionals with master's or doctoral degrees in their field. They focus on understanding social groupings and behaviour and may be involved in research or make recommendations about how to address specific issues in society. Since their work focuses on understanding how society can influence behavior, they work within the field of social studies.
- Historians: Historians research the past and educate people about historic events, artifacts or developments. Their work focuses on civilisations and incidents involving people in the past, which is why it falls within the social studies field. They might use the data from their research to form conclusions about why a society relocated or how cultural beliefs in a particular group evolved. They may need a doctoral degree, although it is possible to enter this field with a master's degree in history.
- Education & Social Work: A School Social Worker offers guidance and help to students that are struggling in school. They work with Teachers, parents and Administrators to identify problem areas for a student and create a plan on how to help the student adjust and fix their problems.
- Engineering: Engineering careers offer the opportunity for creative thinking, innovative experimentation and intriguing design and development. With an engineering background, you might work with aircraft, watercraft, road design, software programs and more.
- IT: IT stands for “Information Technology”. IT jobs are positions in the fields of computer software, hardware, data storage/retrieval, and computer support. Information Technology is a fast-growing industry that offers many high-paying jobs and career growth.
- Law: You can pursue many careers with a law degree, including positions as a paralegal, legal assistant, mediator, court reporter, and lawyer. Lawyers often focus on a subfield like business, tax, or criminal law. Law students can also pursue careers in business, criminal justice, politics, and law enforcement.
- Environmental Scientist: Environmental scientists identify, reduce, and eradicate pollutants and other hazards that threaten the environment or the population's health. You can get an entry-level job with a bachelor's degree in environmental science, biology, engineering, chemistry, or physics, but if you hope to advance, a master's degree is necessary.
Acquiring the Assistance of a Superprof Personal Development Tutor
One thing that all parents seem to forget when they encounter the dreaded teenage years with their kids is that they don't have to do it all by themselves. There are people who specialise in giving out career guidance and can help guide your kid to the best university courses and career path.
Most teens are required to make one of the most important decisions of their lives, choosing a career, at an age in which they have not even been introduced to the concept of work. It is only natural that they will feel stressed and overwhelmed by this decision and that they will inevitably pass on that stress over to you.
But guess what? You don't have to live with this stress, you as a parent can ask for help too.
Career guidance enables deep inner exploration to understand their core interests, family influences, aptitude, personality, skills and attitudes. These elements can be combined to derive a personal career profile, which will help the students choose subjects and a career which they are more likely to enjoy and find satisfying in the long term.
At Superprof we have a wide network of career advisors who would be more than happy to help you and your kid reach your goals and live up to their potential.
We have over one hundred private tutors who specialise in this area, charging an average hourly rate of $46 dollars. This rate can vary depending on the teacher's qualifications and experience so prices may vary depending on the profile you are looking at.
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