Updated: May 31
Are you struggling to get your teenager to talk about what they want to do after GCSE or sixth form? It can be tricky to get teens to talk about anything, especially what they want to do next. However, it is important they think about their future, what they might like to achieve and what they need to do now so they can get themselves on the right track.
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How do I get my teenager to start talking?
To help you, we’ve created a board game that saves you worrying about which questions to ask. You can play too! By playing the game together you create a two-way conversation, with them finding out more about you, as well as you finding out more about them. This helps avoid feelings of confrontation because the focus is not solely directed towards your child. It covers lots of different areas that are important to bear in mind when considering next options, such as what their strengths are, what interests them outside the school curriculum, what type of person they are, how they’ve changed over the past few years, what they’d like to do better, what brings them joy and their thoughts on fame. Playing the game several months apart will enable you to assess how your child has changed and developed.
Download it here if your child is taking GCSE or here if they are in sixth form
Ten great tips to keep the conversation going:
1. Accept their idea of success may be different to yours.
Their dreams and ambitions might not align with your dreams and ambitions for them. This can be disappointing but let them walk their own path.
2. It’s OK if they don’t know what career they’d like to follow in the future.
They don’t need to make that decision right now: it’s possible the job they end up doing doesn’t even exist yet! They do need to develop skills that will help them progress, and that should be their focus.
3. Try not to make the decisions for them.
They have more options that you when you were their age -whether that’s in taking qualifications, where to study or what job to train for. Your guidance is valuable, but the decision is theirs to make.
4. Encourage them to turn passions into money-makers.
They’re more likely to be successful at something they enjoy and if they develop an entrepreneurial spirit early on, it will stand them in good stead moving forwards. It will also give them plenty to discuss during interviews. Blogging, vlogging, creating You Tube channels, online courses and becoming an influencer are possible options.
5. Help them navigate their limitations.
If their heartfelt desire is to become a vet because they want to work with animals, but they don’t have the academic gift to study medicine and go to veterinary college, what other jobs can they do to fulfil their ambition whilst playing to their strengths? Be creative. In this example, opportunities might include becoming an animal behaviour trainer, aquarist, dog walker, pet behaviourist, RCSPCA inspector, safari park/zoo manager, taking a role with an animal charity. Some of these jobs may require a degree (but not necessarily in sciences), others may need a different route such as apprenticeships or traineeships. Not being academic should not be a barrier to success and there is usually more than one way to reach a destination.
6. Give them permission to explore careers that are interesting to them rather than interesting to you.
This is especially relevant if you have a family tradition of all going into the same field of work or if you own a family business.
7. They might know what they want to do, but not know how to get there
Help them plan out a route that focuses on their strengths. School leaver programmes, traineeships, apprenticeships and higher education options can often provide entry points into the same industry.
8. If they are struggling to look far ahead, help them focus on the near future.
Setting short-term, achievable goals will help them strive towards a long-term ambition.
9. It’s OK if they change their mind!
Reassure them that if they tell you they have their heart set on one direction, then later change their minds, you won’t berate them for it.
10.Empower them: they have control over their future.
The decisions they take and what they do matters.
Support and resources for parents of teens
We always love to hear from you, so do let us know if there are any subjects you’d like us to chat to you about. Stay safe and keep happy,
Darius Bluck - Darius@theparentsguideto.co.uk