Is your child on track to finish high school and starting to ask questions about their future? Do you feel anxious about their career prospects and are wondering how you can help, even though you feel your hands are tied in many ways?
The transition to the working world is a major event for kids and their parents, and it’s normal to feel a little stressed about it. Your child is entering a period where they will be making important decisions about their identity: they are searching for answers while at the same time required to make big decisions. They may also feel behind their fellow students who seem to have more concrete plans than they do. Your child may also feel a certain pressure coming from you, his parent – something that you don’t want them to have to deal with.
What’s the best way for you to support and accompany them during this challenging time? While every situation and every child is different, below are a few answers to help you get started.
Before choosing an academic program, it’s important for future students to understand exactly what a particular program entails. Quebec’s education system is complex and diversified, and it can be easy to miss out on some interesting possibilities. There are in fact several different types of training available for post-secondary students; CEGEP isn’t the only option. Within CEGEPs, several options exist as well.
To make an enlightened decision about one’s future, it’s critical to actively seek out all the information possible before making a decision. One way to get started is by attending an institution’s “open house” event. Visiting special events such as the National Education Fair or the National Career Event Fair is also a good idea. There are several ways to find out more about Quebec’s education system and the many different paths available for students within it.
When it comes to making decisions about their life and/or career path, your child may have ideas that seem far-fetched or that you disagree with. But try to stay positive and remember that (obvious exceptions aside) there are no stupid ideas! Ask your child what is motivating them to pursue a particular path; this can help them reflect on why they are interested in a particular field, and to identify what is truly important to them. Try to stay open to their ideas, and put your judgment aside.
You can help them take account of their past experiences, whether it be their last summer job, school-related experience or extracurricular activities. Try to help them get to know themselves better and to illustrate how their interests and skills can lead to real-life positions in the professional world. Offer them opportunities to discover new things and to explore, to speak with other people in their lives including their family members, friends and teachers. Aim to be a supportive coach and encourage them to take action when they are ready.
Your kid may explain some of their worries to you, and they may also keep some of them to themselves. In both of these cases it’s important to give your child space to express the emotions they’re feeling. It can be good to de-dramatize the situation a little, since without some calm guidance a child’s fear of failure may “paralyze” them and leave them feeling negative about the future.
Explain to them that in life, they will make mistakes, and that no choice is perfect. Reassure them that not everybody in the world is at the same level of achievement at the same time; that the world is constantly evolving, and your child will evolve as well.
Believe in yourself!
Even if you sometimes feel that you don’t have all the answers for your child, simply being present, open-minded and willing to listen will give them much of the help they need. Despite the fear and uncertainty, this stage of their life will be full of wonderful opportunities. Your kid needs space to explore and to try new things, without feeling pressure from you to do so.
If you feel that your child needs additional support, you can arrange for them to work with a professional, for example by reaching out to the orientation counselor at their school.
Websites that can help you
L’Espace virtuel pour les parents helps parents to better understand what their kids are experiencing, by giving them the tools to accompany them in their personal development during their secondary school years. (French only)
Academos is a site that supports kids’ academic performance by helping them find a professional project that concretizes the applications of their studies and encourages them to stay in school. (French only)
By Sandy Vignola-Pétrin and Marie-Hélène Collin, orientation counselors