Parents interpret information for their children - about the world around them and about themselves. Numerous studies suggest two central influences that relate to career development:
- Close relationships between parents and their children provide the sense of security needed for exploration and risk taking.
- Children's early experiences build the foundation for their beliefs about if and how much they control their own lives.
Some researchers refer to parents as a child's career coach. Just like coaches for athletes or artists, there is no single "right" way to do it. However, there are some fundamental principles that you as a parent, or the significant adult in a child's life, will want to adopt:
- Help your children find the path that is right for them. Always avoid telling them what to do with their lives.
- Create many opportunities for experimentation, research, and normal childhood experience. Do not expect or force decisions prematurely.
- Work to help your children expand their options and keep doors of opportunity open. Help them tear down artificial limits or barriers.
Parents nurture, motivate, clarify, connect, and challenge! This may sound a bit like walking a tight rope or balancing on a beam!
Career coaching does not involve a separate set of activities. It is woven into your other parental responsibilities. Routine activities offer ample opportunities to help your children develop interests, understand their talents, connect to the real world, and learn important skills. Your support and guidance includes specific career or educational suggestions. However, every day, you also indirectly support career development by creating learning experiences, such as family vacations, reading books, and modeling paid and non-paid work roles.
What you do influences key aspects of your children's career beliefs, choices, and actions. Here is a partial list of career-related attributes that are born at home:
- Independent thinking and action
- The belief in one's ability to be successful
- The understanding of how one's own actions determine rewards
- Values and beliefs
- Appreciation of work and the dignity of all workers
- Perceptions of race, gender, ethnicity, and culture
- Understanding and acceptance of differences in people's gifts, talents, and abilities
- Attitudes and behaviors
- Personal responsibility, reliability, promptness
- Importance of education and learning
- Conflict resolution
- Perception of the adult world
- Adult roles (which include that of individual, learner, producer, consumer, family member, citizen)
- Understanding of work and specific occupations
- Connection of education to future options
So, you see, your actions are critically important to the future success of your children - to their career decidedness and maturity, to their educational and occupational attainment. Your role as parent is to be aware of your influence and consciously work to make that influence as positive as possible.