7 Pain Points in Parent-Teen Career Conversations

JP Michel

In March 2019, I conducted 21 interviews with parents across the USA and Canada to learn more about how they helped their teens make plans for their lives after high school. The interviews were fascinating; I enjoyed listening to parents' candid answers about their kids, their struggles and their advice for other parents.

During these conversations, I noticed some common themes regarding their hopes, concerns and pain points. I learned a lot from these interviews and want to share with you some of my favourite parent quotes.

Who know, maybe you’ll find one resonates with you. Regardless, I hope you will find these insights useful and that you will share them with other parents of teenagers and young adults. 

Greatest Hope for Teens

The most popular reaction that many parents shared was that their greatest hope for their teens was for them to be happy. Some parents also mentioned that they wanted kids to find their joy or something to be passionate about

"All I want is for him to have the opportunity to achieve his dreams, whatever they may be."

 Greatest Concern for Teens

When asked about their greatest concern when it came to their teens, parents first recognized the pains that many of the teens were feeling. For example: anxiety, fear, tears, and a strong fear of failure, among others.

"I think the emotional process has been difficult for her."

 Another concern that parents shared was how their teens should balance money and security with passion. Most parents were looking to encourage their kids' interests while helping them paint a realistic picture of future outcomes.

"I hope they will be able to make a living doing it."


7 Pain Points in Parent-Teen Career Conversations

1. Talking About a Teen's Future can be a Challenging Conversation.

Even though teens have a lot to look forward to, many of them are feeling stressed out and anxious about their decisions. This can make a career conversation challenging. 

"It took a long time and a lot of convincing for him to get into the mood to do it with me."

"It went fairly well, except that she lost interest quickly and wanted to change the subject."


 2. Most Parents are Disappointed in the Services that Schools are Offering.

"The schools didn’t provide any help whatsoever. It became more our jobs.’

"The high school counsellor meets every grade 12 student - way too many kids. There is not enough guidance. It’s very general." 


3. Many teens Lack the Maturity or Preparedness Required to Make Education and Career Decisions.

"It’s hard to know at this age, they are so young."

"The hardest part is definitely getting a teenager to think so far ahead in their life."

"So much pressure at 17 to decide where they are going."


 4. Communication Issues Between Parents and Students can Create Tension in Their Relationship.

"It's my kid, and I'm used to them listening to what I have to say, but this isn't my decision to make."

"I was making it worse. I had to back off."

"You just want to not worry about your kids." 


5. Teens and Parents Have Biases that Impact How They Approach the Conversation. 

A part of being a young adult is starting to carve your own path. For teens, this can manifest itself through the need to distance themselves from their parents. This need makes it more difficult for them to work with parents to help them make career decisions. 

"When you are 16, you don’t listen to your parents anyway."


"It is hard to seem "smart" to teenagers, as they are fairly certain that they know more about everything that their parents."

On the parents side, biases can impact their advice when they over rely on certain factors, such as: what made them successful, their personal experiences in the workplace, and their hopes and dreams for their kids. 

"The hardest part was trying to be hands-off with the conversation and let him talk, because you want to influence them to make the right choices as you see them, but your choice may not always be the right choice for them."


"I felt helpless as a parent, not knowing what options were available."


"As a parent, the whole landscape has changed."


"This is tied to our ego – what can I say to my friends. We don’t realize how much our kids are an extension of us."


6. Parents are Striving to Take a 'Balanced' Role in the Process.

Many parents oscillate between the need to guide their teens (ie. as career coaches) and the need to do things for them (ie. project managers). Their goal is to get teens to move forward in their decisions without being too pushy. 

"It’s hard to know how much to do for him."
"Rescuing feels great in the moment, but in the long run, it won’t be advantageous."
"It’s an extreme exercise in self-management."
"There is a risk of offending them. How do I gently say they might not be suited for that? I just want to be encouraging."


7. Parents Have a Greater Understanding of the Financial Implications of Teens' Career Decisions.  

While teens understand the concepts of tuition fees, student debt and starting salaries, parents have a more concrete understanding the costs of education, and the impact it can have on one's career. Further, many parents are asking themselves how they want to support their kids moving forward, and for how long. Photo by Haley Phelps on Unsplash

I hope you found these insights useful and that you might share them with other parents of teenagers and young adults. I would like to extend a big thank you to the parents who shared their stories with me. Your words will surely have an impact on other parents who are in a similar position.   

Is Your Teenager Stuck? 

You know that they have great potential, but they haven't found the right outlet yet. When it comes to their plans for the future, they don't know where to start. Perhaps this has already cause them frustration, or even stress and anxiety.  They have tried online research, quizzes and other services, yet they still feel lost. At this point, instead of taking action, they are stalling. Unfortunately, they may have forgotten that the world needs them. They may no longer see a path towards happiness and fulfillment. It is becoming difficult for them to imagine a way forward.  My online, interactive course shows an easier way: a step-by-step process for teens to discover who they are, the impact they want to have on the world and the education program that will get them there. To learn more, visit the course page and help them start creating an exciting future.  sparkpath.teachable.com

To learn more on how parents can help their teen discover a path to the future, dowload our eBook: The 5 Career Conversations.

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