When your child faces big decisions or demanding situations like exams it can be emotional.
They may be unsure how to make a choice or anxious about whether they’ll do well. You might be worried they’ll make the wrong decisions.
Perhaps your child is confused about the options, doesn’t know what they want to do or has been put off a subject or a career by a bad experience.
How can you tackle this and help your child be confident they are making good decisions?
Here are our top suggestions:
1. Start with your child’s likes and strengths
Acknowledge and respect their likes and their strengths. Sit down with your child and try the About me and Strengths quizzes together.
Listen to them and talk about what they like doing and what gives them the most energy and excitement.
The things that they’re passionate about are the things that will capture their commitment and effort. You never know where a passion will take them!
2. Believe they can improve their abilities
Research by Stanford Professor of Psychology Carol Dweck has found that practice and perseverance means people can achieve all sorts of things.
By trying, and trying again, people get better at subjects or tasks they’ve previously found difficult. They also become more willing to tackle new challenges.
And as they persevere, people’s brains develop and change - they learn more and more.
It’s called a Growth Mindset.
3. Give praise in a helpful way
You can encourage a Growth Mindset by praising your child’s commitment, effort, persistence and hard work.
This helps them to believe that by continuing to put in the effort and commitment, they can do better and better.
But praising someone for a having a natural ability, gift or talent can actually hold them back because they feel there’s less point in trying. After all, they’ve either got it or they don’t.
This is a Fixed Mindset.
Subconsciously people say to themselves, I’m not good at that. And even with the things they find easy, once they reach a level they’re comfortable at they don’t want to push beyond it for fear it might show their ‘talent’ has limits.
Someone with a Fixed Mindset says ‘I’m just not good with numbers.’
Someone with a Growth Mindset says ‘If I keep trying and work hard then I could get better at working with numbers.’
And the research shows that it’s true, because the human brain is amazingly adaptable!
- Read more about encouraging a Growth Mindset in this BBC website article called 'Words that could unlock your child'
- Watch Carol Dweck talk about her research on the Growth Mindset in this Khan Academy discussion on YouTube
4. Think about your own emotions
Be honest with yourself. Do you have an idea of what you think would be a great option for them - and is it something you always wanted to do but didn’t get the chance?
Or are you worried about their future security - are you pushing them towards careers you think are well-paid and secure?
Try to be open-minded.
And find out more; there’s lots of information on this site about jobs and the prospects for careers in different industries.