Updated: Sep 3, 2021
It has always been a fact that teenagers and young adults historically struggle with how to connect their present lives with their future aspirations. This can be for many reasons; a lot going on in their lives, a lack of confidence, little experience in setting their own goals, not being in tune with their strengths, interests, and motivations, feeling they have too little choice, or the opposite — feeling overwhelmed by too many options. Hence why family support during these key decision years is so important. Family support is being there to help decipher the next steps and being supportive of change- not feeling accountable for offering answers.
Yesterday, they were out socializing with friends, choosing between pizza and pasta, or figuring out which film to watch. Suddenly, they are faced with decisions about formal examinations, and which qualifications or universities to choose, potentially setting them down a path that can have an irreversible impact on the rest of their life. All while dealing with the pressures and raw emotions of being a teenager. Even as adults, an overwhelming number of us stumble through life as receivers of our destiny rather than shapers of our own paths.
Through my coaching work with young adults, I see first-hand the incredible value that the right kind of family support can have in opening up choices for teenagers.
Family support, and appropriate mentoring and coaching from a place of care, can help young adults find the inner confidence to approach these issues with calm and clarity. This can support their teenager while they are searching for an understanding of what purpose and values their vision is trying to fulfill. These are the years where young adults are finding their true selves; discovering who they want to be and how they want to show up in the world. Our role as parents, career coaches, and mentors is to provide a safe, explorative environment and the tools to facilitate that journey while allowing them to walk their own path.
Top 4 Tips to Finding Your Family Support Balance:
1. Build Connectedness and Communication
‘The most important thing in communication is hearing what isn’t said.’
- Peter Drucker
Engagement is important. Only when we are engaged will we know how our teens are feeling and how to keep the environment at home healthy and supportive. With every year of teenage life, a new relationship dynamic is forming, and this can leave parents in the trap of ‘demanding’ information or preferred behaviours from their teenager, instead of listening more to what they need as they try to figure out who they are and develop the foundations of the adult they want to be.
Spending time together is a great opportunity to reduce stress and increase connectedness. Engagement isn’t hard to achieve- whether it is eating meals as a family, organizing a movie night, or finding a form of exercise or sport you all love. It takes time to achieve, yet the benefits are well worth the efforts.
Honest and respectful communication is key to encouraging and supporting exploration. Being a little extra careful and cautious when reacting to words and scenarios that might come up will go a long way to ensuring that your teen doesn’t feel isolated:
Keep the communication lines open
Pick your battles
Avoid the lecture
Make time to spend together that is purely about fun and relaxation
Be the calm one
Deep engagement through increased connectedness, communication, and togetherness help to reduce negativity from the home environment and keep that all-important open and honest discussion and debate about choices and possibilities going. Only when your teenager feels safe to explore with you, without fear of reprisal and disappointment, will you be able to really help the journey.
2. Identify their Strengths and Motivations to Help Build Confidence
‘My husband and I didn’t know how to help our daughter, and she was feeling so lost career wise. She now has so much more confidence in herself and her own potential!”
- Mother of 17-year-old Diya (The Bedrock Program participant)
When young people are able to recognize in themselves the deeper motivations and values that drive their true intentions, they find the will to move forward with defining real options to explore. Only when there is real empathy towards themselves, can young people begin to put their motivations and values ahead of their thoughts and feel worthy enough to focus on what they truly want, need, and desire from a successful future.
Getting to know what your young adult loves doing and what they hate doing, how they enjoy spending their time, and what makes them happy is one of the most important ways you can join them on their journey to identifying a future vision that is right for them.
Make it okay for them to ask for input, whether it is from parents, peers, teachers, school counsellors, work contacts, or coaches who specialize in this age group. Just make sure they stay focused on their own strengths, motivations, and values, and that the input is well and truly grounded in this foundation.
3. Find Their Why
‘University in the US is so expensive; it was killing me to think that I have wasting my parents’ money for 2 years…’
- James (The Bedrock Program participant)
When I work with young adults, it’s not just about establishing their future goals. The very first thing we do is get to the root of what truly motivates them, and why.
Finding your ‘why’ provides deep clarity about who you are and what you want. Finding your why helps you create a clear goal that motivates you, meaning you will be much less likely to be distracted or become unhappy with what you are doing, and much more likely to stay the course, when life or studies get hard. This will help you make better choices about where and what you want to study and what work you want to do because you know why you are doing it and what the end goal is.
Respectful and honest sharing of emotions at home can model this curiosity and drive to get to the root of your teen’s own why:
Be open about what motivates and doesn’t motivate you
Talk about your own goals openly and share your own aspirations
Ensure you have outside activities that they can see that you love doing, either by yourself or as a family
Discuss why you do what you do in your own career
Encourage conversation about what’s happening around the world at mealtimes
A vision based on their why will inspire your teen to commit, persist, and give their best. Ask yourself if you know what your own why is, or whether this is a journey you can share.
4. Opening Up Choices
‘I started studying physics because I thought it was interesting and did well in it in high school. Two years later, I hate it and was trying to decide how to quit school all together.’
- B.K. (The Bedrock Program participant)
Research shows that agency (the capacity of individuals to act independently and to make their own free choices) is one of the most important contributors to happiness.
The more choices you have, the more opportunities you have, which in turn means you will allow yourself to struggle through and overcome difficult feelings or challenging situations. Yes, I know that too many choices can also create paralysis by analysis, however, when options are really considered, I have found that the commonalities create the opportunity for the negative differences to come to light, and less favourable options are discarded.
What’s important to realize is that empowerment is all about choices. Provide the structure for your young adult to discover their strengths, and this will empower them to explore choices that are feasible and possible. It’s also important to provide the opportunity for them to recognize what their weaknesses are, and how to overcome them, so they can build resilience and avoid being overwhelmed by negative emotions further down the line.
Talk to each other, give them the opportunity to talk to experts, and talk to or analyze people who have already achieved what they are dreaming of achieving. Keep the discussion going and evolving, and allow time for absorption and reflection. I have one consistent message when working with families: ‘Don’t stress over things you think you can’t change. Focus on what you can influence and take action. There are always choices.’
‘Strive not to be a success, but rather to be of value.’
- Albert Einstein
Our role as a parent, coach, or mentor is not to create a future vision and path for the young adult; it can be inevitable that the closer you are to the teenager, the greater the influence you have on them through our own motivations, passions, and values. Yet, our role is to provide an organic infrastructure for them to discuss, explore, self-reflect, and shape their own why and future vision for themselves. We must then stand back with pride and be their greatest cheerleader.
Originally published in Medium: https://audrey-hametner01.medium.com/why-is-building-a-future-vision-with-family-support-important-a834920fe161