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.