Helping Your Teenage Daughter Plan For Her Future
Aug 10, 2017
Typically, children don’t spend much time planning for their future. Nor would we want them to. They are much too involved in what is happening right now, next week, or of course, on their upcoming birthday. This is as it should be. Aged 9, 10, 11, 12….how about 13?
Things change suddenly when children reach the age at which our education system expects them to start narrowing down their options. Decisions loom, requiring thought about paths they might like to take. Conversations about career plans are opened. And as parents, we only want the best for our daughters.
We want them to succeed in life. To be happy. To be able to earn enough to allow the freedom you always wished for them.
But, how do we guide our daughters onto a sensible path, when the future seems so very far away from where she is sitting. And quite frankly, advice from mum and dad just isn’t attractive to most teen girls.
The Parenting Conundrum
Independence and autonomy are top of the list priorities for most teenagers. Sure, they know they need to think about making career choices, but there is plenty of time for that…right?
Pressure gradually mounts as GCSEs loom and options become ever narrowed. Decisions must be made. As parents, the benefit of hindsight often comes with regret at not making different choices back ‘then’. When it could have been so useful.
But these lessons are difficult to teach through sharing experience. Most teenagers will have to feel it themselves in order to understand. And it doesn’t matter how much you moan and nag, you may find this message impossible to convey.
What many parents find, is that their teens actively resist what their parents suggest, even if they had wanted to follow that direction themselves.
Most young women will begin to formulate plans around their future, deciding on goals and working towards them. But they will inevitably be unsure about the right direction to work towards, and of course, they will continually change their minds.
This is normal, and should not concern parents too much. It is a golden opportunity for young women to try on different hats for size and see which ignites them.
There is simply no one correct way for parents to help in this situation. If your daughter wants to become a singer, you may worry about her earning abilities. But the danger of trying to dissuade her could cost you dearly in added conflict.
If you decide to encourage and purchase a microphone for her, that could be enough to turn her off of the idea altogether.
To be clear, we are absolutely not suggesting that you try reverse psychology!
What we want to illustrate, is how unpredictable and illogical your daughter’s decision-making process is likely to look at this important time of her life.
She may lose interest in something that she has had her heart set on since early childhood, or she may be crystal clear in her goals and begin plodding consistently toward achieving them.
Whichever way she handles this important crossroad, it is important to be a supporter from the stands. Not to try to influence and manipulate her. She will see right through it.
While you are taking a step back from steering your daughter’s ‘future’, there is something to be vigilant about. That is keeping her aware that her choices and actions will have consequences.
Until recently, your daughter’s decisions will likely have had little impact beyond her immediate reality. But suddenly, repercussions can be painful and costly.
With the pressure to fit in, be cool and be independent, your daughter will likely make some decisions that she regrets. This is a normal part of development. The difference today, thanks to the internet, is that reacting to impulses can have a lasting impact.
Try having an open conversation with her about the damage that a public record of questionable behaviour could have on her long term plans. This isn’t about judging. Most of us are likely grateful that social media wasn’t around when we were growing up. Let her know that truth, you were young once too.
And of course, while we can’t answer whether institutions and employers should morally use social media as a deciding factor when looking at candidates, who is to say they won’t.
Frame your conversation about consequences, honestly and frankly. You aren’t expecting your daughter to attain an unrealistic level of perfect behaviour. But you do want her to think twice about what is shared on a public domain.
What Action Can You Take?
‘Planning for her future’ is something that will happen at your daughter’s own pace. She will likely continue to take one step forward and two steps back, while you quietly bite your tongue and will her to take the path you think is right.
There are however, some things that you can do to guide her, without triggering the dreaded parent-resistance assault.
- Have a jointly agreed game plan for studies and exam preparation to support her in achieving her best at these key points.
- Encourage her to keep options open as far as possible.
- Suggest that she investigates the stepping stones towards goals she would like to achieve. Encourage her to find out what preparation courses she would need in order to follow her chosen path.
- Encourage her to take the reigns in this journey as much as possible.
- Discuss your own experience in discovering that school time was a golden opportunity for learning.
- Consider introducing an older teen role model, who may be able to offer your daughter valuable insights into her choices.
- Make time to visit colleges and career days, or at least provide transport to and from if you can.
- Suggest job shadowing or volunteering for real experience - which will be far more valuable that parental advice to a teenager!
- Brainstorm options together, and remain positive, not pushy!
The Bottom Line
The teenage struggle for independence is normal and healthy. Your daughter will want to decide on the path she will take in life, and it may not be in line with what you have always dreamed she will do. Of course, it is frustrating when you love her, and have the benefit of wisdom.
You may be absolutely certain that you know best and she is making the wrong choices. However, unless you fear that she is putting herself in danger, it will probably be more helpful to step back.
Brainstorm options together. Discuss challenges and opportunities that come up, but resist the temptation to manipulate or control.
You wouldn’t have thanked your parents for it! The world is a very different place for teenagers today, and opportunities are abundant. Enjoy watching your young woman try out different future paths and be there to support. You might not believe it, but she will be grateful… even if only on the inside!