A typical picture: the child passed the exams, got into college, went to study, but by the second semester he was disappointed: bored, uninteresting, “it’s not what I wanted. How should parents deal with such a situation? Support the child or try to change his mind? 

Reasons for the mistake

Work occupies, if not all, then most of life. The choice of profession in many ways depends on how a person will feel in general. One in three, whether they are a paper writer, a manager, or a store clerk, the one who comes to me for counseling does not like their chosen profession. These students face a loss of energy and motivation, apathy, and even depression. There can be a variety of reasons for this.

One is when the expectation does not match reality. For example, my client went to study medicine because since childhood she loved to help people. She loved her studies, but in the process, she couldn’t accept the fact that a doctor can’t always save every patient. However, she did not fall into despair but realized that she should change her vector. Now she continues to help people, but in a different role – as a personal development coach. Another client until the 8th form dreamt of building rockets, but then he joined an engineering class and realized that rocket building is not about watching rockets fly off into space but about endless calculations, accurate drawings, and a lot of technical nuances.

The second reason why schoolchildren often choose a specialty that is not interesting for them is the desire to live up to the expectations of their parents

There are families where there is a dynasty of doctors or teachers, and children simply have no choice but to continue the work of adults. Another part of schoolchildren succumbs to the influence of stereotypes about professions, not trying to understand the peculiarities of the real work process. For example, you may hear from teenagers that only a “techie” can make a lot of money, that doing basic science is not serious, that being a programmer means working in a cool office like Google, where they are provided with coffee and cookies.

Let the Kids Choose for Themselves

Some parents believe they know what’s best for their children, so they try to force their position on them. And high school students often fall for this ploy. At 16-18, many of them are not yet ready to make a difficult and responsible choice, so they rely on the opinion of adults who seem to be more experienced. If one is lucky: he listened to parents and got a profession, which really likes – others may then blame the family for not loving work.

Parents should remember: if they do not give their children the right to choose, they often grow up to be people who find it difficult to make decisions even in small things. In this case, they become dependent not only on the opinion of parents but also on friends, colleagues, and acquaintances. That’s why it is so important to ask your children what they want, what they think about a particular issue. Trying to meet your expectations, they will build not their own life, but the life of an exemplary child. In addition, living by other people’s rules, your children can not find the energy to overcome the difficulties that somehow arise on every path of life.

Try to put yourself in your child’s shoes. Imagine the risks he takes, realizing your contribution when he decides to change his major or drop out of college. At such a difficult time for both of you, you can be a trusted friend and provide support.

Be prepared for the fact that your advice will not always be followed, but definitely will be more willing to ask for help. If you put pressure on the child, then kill him autonomy or prove yourself as a person who never needs to be addressed.

Help Them Deal with Their Feelings of Guilt

Many students who find themselves in this situation experience guilt, both to themselves and to their parents. Guilt is a destructive feeling, and it is important to work with it. There’s a famous Monster Study experiment that took two groups of children of 11 each. In one, the children were praised and supported, while in the other, on the contrary, criticized, blamed, scolded. The results turned out to be deplorable. Many of the children who were regularly belittled developed speech defects. You can draw conclusions.

Support the child – let him speak out and try to explain that it is not a disaster

Tell him that life doesn’t end there and that it’s a great age to try something new. If you don’t do this, he will find help elsewhere, for example from friends who may not always be able to give the right advice. A child may outwardly not recognize your authority, but he will be much more relaxed if he knows that there is an ally at home, and not a strict eternal criticizing “teacher”.

Finding the Golden Mean

It also happens that a person likes his profession, but, for example, in social networks, he sees that there are much more successful peers, so he begins to doubt himself, make more stringent demands on himself. At this point, a critic awakens inside him and begins to devalue his achievements. Basically with such a problem faced by perfectionists, for whom there is only black and white sides: either ideal or nothing.

People who treat themselves too strictly need the perspective of a neutral party who will support them and say, “Now you are devaluing yourself. This situation is a psychological phenomenon, not a reflection of reality.” That is, the main task – to help find the golden mean, to add other colors and shades to the picture of the child’s world, so he could more adequately assess what is happening and see alternative solutions to the problem.

You can also offer the person a mental experiment: ask them what they would say to a friend who was in the same situation. Surely your child will begin to give more humane advice to his imaginary friend. Perhaps this will make him wonder why he treats himself worse than others.

Arguments and Facts

Give the child time to think things through, weighing the pros and cons for himself. You can use leading questions to help him understand what he didn’t like about his studies, what direction he wants to go in the future, suggest different tools to reach his goals, backing up all the suggestions with arguments and facts. Most importantly, present information not as a teacher, but as a partner. You don’t have to remind him that you know better, just supplement his analysis with your own examples.

Perhaps the child will come to the conclusion that, for example, the best way out would be to finish school first, get some “rear” in the form of a diploma and only then develop yourself in a different direction, or change your specialty with a master’s degree. There’s also nothing wrong if he wants to transfer to a different undergraduate major or work to see for himself how he feels. Suggest thinking about plans A, B, C and evaluating the possible outcomes of each to choose the most appropriate one.

Not a Mistake, But an Experience

At school, teachers used to cross out all inaccuracies with a red pen and give you a “D” if there were too many corrections. There is an opinion that this is why we treat our mistakes negatively. The task of each person is to take, conventionally, a green marker and, conversely, to highlight those points that turned out.

Mistakes are an essential part of personal development. When you start something new, there is always a risk that it may not work the first time. Try to find the pluses in the experience together with your child. You can write them outright on a piece of paper.

Explain to your child that knowing exactly what you don’t want to do is a serious step towards yourself.

I’m sure that from each individual experience I can learn valuable lessons. As Steve Jobs said, all points of the path of life will sooner or later connect.

Universal algorithm

If you reduce the above recommendations into a universal algorithm, it would consist of three basic steps.

Accept. In this step, it is important to separate your worries from those of the child. Try not to blame him, not to change his mind, and especially not to give him ultimatums. Try to find out what he or she sees as the reasons for what happened, what feelings he or she is experiencing, and how he or she would like to resolve the situation.

Support. Believe me, it is much more stressful for your child, even if he or she doesn’t show it. So let him or her know that he or she can trust you completely, talk about his or her experiences without fear of condemnation or criticism. Listen and support him. Thus try not to impose a helping hand on him or her, but be ready to give it at any moment.

Encouragement. The child should make a new decision by himself or herself, but you can share your experience unobtrusively, and help him or her gather information about tools and alternatives. There may be many ways to achieve the goals, let the child choose the one that suits him. If he doesn’t know what direction he wants to go in next, offer him to fantasize about “What would I do if I had 10 lives?

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