Tough Talks: The Future

Raising teenagers can be rough on parents – and doubly so for the teens themselves. Navigating the constant barrage of hormones, peer pressure, stress from school – not to mention finding their still-forming identities – can wreak havoc on the emotional state of your teen. But one of the most pervasive, and often overlooked, forms of stress your teen will experience is that of thinking about their future. 

In high school, teens are faced with a profound change in the expectations set upon them. It seems like sophomore year is spent taking classes and socializing, and then just one year later, kids are expected to have a fully fledged plan for their careers. As adults, we know that it often takes years, or even decades, to discover what we truly want to do for employment, and yet teens feel pressure to come up with a plan within a matter of months. 

As a parent, you want to support your kids as much as you can. As we’ve discussed earlier in our Tough Talks Series, this usually involves listening to teens and giving them space to express themselves. But when it comes to choosing a career path for teens, your teen needs as much guidance as they do freedom. To help you inspire, motivate, and guide your teen on how to choose a career, we’ve put together some useful tips to help steer them on the right path to their future.

Find Out What Interests Them

Choosing a career path can be difficult for everyone, especially for teens. A great way to start is to narrow down what interests them. Now there are some kids that have always known exactly what they’ve wanted to do, and these kids are pretty lucky. But many others don’t seem to have a clue where to start. If your teen falls in this category, the answer is to start small. When discussing their interests, instead of speaking about different industries or professions, speak in terms of the actual work they’ll be doing. Does your teen prefer working with people, or on their own? Do they enjoy critical thinking, or are they happier when multitasking? Questions like these will help them get started visualizing what they want to be doing in the future.

Create Practical Scenarios

As kids, we all have dreams about what we want to be when we grow up. Sometimes these fall into categories like baseball player, astronaut, supermodel, rockstar, or pulitzer prize-winning author – seeming to be more fantasies than actual career paths. Be careful not to dismiss your teen’s dreams if they should open up about them. Instead, explore the realities of those career paths, ask them to visualize how to achieve that dream, and what day-to-day life would be like actually living that dream. Allowing them to explore the practicalities of these career paths will help them ground themselves, which will either lead to them letting go of their previous conceptions, or doubling down on them. Either way, they’ll be closer to having an idea of what they want.

Offer to Find Internships

One great thing about our high school years, is that many of us are willing to work for free (begrudgingly, but still). Internships are a great way to get real-world experience in a possible job opportunity, learn the ropes, face the challenges, and explore what different jobs are actually like. If you let your teen know, without pressuring them, that if they want your help it’s available anytime, they might just take you up on it.

Set Some Goals

Once your teen has narrowed down some idea of a career path, it’s time to take action. Help them plan out the next steps on their journey. Do they need college, a trade school, internships, apprenticeships? Guide them into planning the next five years, then work backwards. If you break it down into small, manageable goals, they’ll have a clear path forward in the long and short runs.

Try to Alleviate Pressure

Sitting down and talking with your teen about their future might be easier said than done. After all, they are probably being lectured, advised, and pressured on all sides at school. Maybe their friends have figured out their career paths, maybe teachers and counselors are reminding them about it on the daily — you just don’t know. But if they are dealing with it regularly, they probably won’t be too keen to talk about it with their parents, either. If this is the case, start off by assuring them that they have your support, and if they don’t decide immediately, they still have plenty of time. Taking away the stress and anxiety of important life choices makes it that much easier to confront them. 

At Tilly’s Life Center, we are dedicated to the emotional and mental health of today’s teens. With our virtual workshops for teens, we give them the tools they need to deal with stress, manage their daily challenges, and unlock their potential to lead a positive life. To learn more, visit: