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Helping your teen figure out their next steps

Year 12 students have just received their final results, and many parents have also been waiting for this moment with bated breath. You probably have lots of valuable advice at hand too, whether its about finding a job that pays well or getting in to a prestigious university. But at the same time, it’s important to let your teen figure out their next steps and what’s right for them. We have some tips to help you navigate conversations about the future with your teen.

Listen to your teen

It’s natural to want the best for our kids. Many parents that didn’t go to university are keen to see their teens take advantage of the opportunities they never had – and if you did go to uni, there can sometimes be an unspoken expectation that your kids will follow in your footsteps.

But at the end of the day, our teens aren’t us. They are their own people with their own goals, hobbies, and dreams. Instead of trying to live vicariously through them or push them to do something “prestigious”, listen to what they have to say. Sure, your teen may have received an ATAR of 99 and being a doctor pays incredibly well, but if they’re just not interested in medicine, don’t push the subject.

Let them direct the conversation

Getting our teens to talk is tricky at the best of times. If you can sense they’re feeling unsure or uneasy about the future, don’t immediately jump in with suggestions and advice, no matter how well-intentioned. Let them express their concerns freely without judgement. Ask lots of open-ended questions and just listen for a while – try to be empathetic and put yourself in their shoes (you probably went through the same thing with your parents at one point too).

It can be hard, but it’s best to let our teens try to figure out their problems for themselves. Sometimes they might not even be looking for a solution, but just want to vent their frustrations. Don’t rush in and try to fix everything, just be supportive and let them know you’re there for them.

Remain calm

Don’t be judgmental or over-reactive when talking to your teen. Even if their suggestions seem completely outlandish to you (“dad, I really want to be a TikTok influencer”), keep your cool – blowing up will probably alienate your teen and make them less likely to come to you for help in the future.

Instead, keep your responses calm and measured. Go through both the pros and cons of your teen’s chosen pathway and let them explain their reasons. Try to keep an eye on your body language too – teens definitely pick up on things like rolling your eyes, raising your eyebrows, and shaking your head.

Back their decisions

At the end of the day, no matter what they choose, support your teen 100% of the way. It might be hard to take a step back and let them fight their own battles, but it will help them to become more resilient, think critically, and solve problems effectively. And it’s good for them to know you’ll be there to help just in case something does go wrong.

“Children do not need us to shape them. They need us to respond to who they are.”

Naomi Aldort, Raising Our Children, Raising Ourselves

Find more tips

You can read heaps of other blogs for parents on our website here.

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