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Why we need to redefine 'Success' to Help our Teens Thrive!

Posted on 2 December 2018
Why we need to redefine 'Success' to Help our Teens Thrive!

"Every parent wants his or her kid to succeed. But, we want more than just a job. If anything, our generation has seen innovation like never before. All of a sudden, those crazy ideas you never thought would work finally have a place in society, and people are willing to step out of their comfort zones to make their dreams come true. We're willing to sacrifice money and reputation for passion and an innate love for what we do."
(A. Slijepceivic. An excerpt from her article in 'Culture' 2016)

This excerpt from an article by 'Gen Z'er' is a great reflection on how young people think these days about the term 'success'! It certainly challenges the way many parents think about 'success', yet examine it we must if we want to keep our finger on the pulse and help our teen's to succeed and thrive in a world very different from the one we grew up in.

As a parent to teenagers myself, I know only too well that it's only natural to worry about what is in store for them.  As the old rules of 'success' begin to slip away and the linear pathway of school, university and one career has been replaced with well, no rules, it's time for a massive re-think!  Whilst our teenagers seem to naturally have a lateral way of thinking that embraces uncertainly, we find that very ambiguity extremely unsettling, and this is where our challenge lies!

  The way we think about the concept of 'success' can have a negative impact on the early career choices our teenagers make. With one in three students dropping out of their first year in their chosen degree, it is increasingly becoming an expensive mistake.

 This year in particular, I have noticed a steep increase in the pressure parents are placing on their Teen with the insistence they 'should' go directly from school to university as a measurement of 'success'.  I know this is a 'throw-back' from we used to think about 'success', but it is just no longer the case!  With approximately 20% of graduates not being able to enter the career related to their degree in 2017, it is simply not the golden gate to job opportunity it once was.

Don't get me wrong! If you have a teenager who has always known exactly what career path they want and is itching to go to university for all the right reasons i.e. their love of learning and wanting to expand their minds are great reasons to be going. But, just be careful it's not for the wrong reasons i.e. the 'status' they think it brings; the 'should be going' or 'can't think what else do, so may as well give it a go' attitude. 

So what it the bottom-line and what can we do to help our kids now? Let's focus on guiding and encouraging our teenagers to find a pathway most aligned to their natural talents and passions and pay attention to what 'lights them up'.

It is a cliché I know but now more than ever, the focus needs to be on their journey and not their ultimate destination. There is not real certainty about any career pathway anymore, so help them instead to take one step at a time and more often than not, their destination will take care of itself. 

The employment market is changing at the most incredible speed, so we simply cannot predict what jobs will be around in 10 years, even 5 years from now. Young people may change job roles at least six times, or combine study areas we have never heard of before. ..that's all okay, I promise you!

Honestly, it's actually very exciting times ahead for them, but we as parents, have to let go of what we used to think about 'success', move away from 'fear of the unknown' and instead, just be excited about what could be in store for them (even if we have no idea yet what their future may look like).

Help them to embrace every opportunity that comes their way and even better, find ways to create new ones! Encourage them to travel so they can become more 'world-savvy' and of course, make sure they do whatever job it's takes (no matter how 'menial') so they can finance their own dreams.

Let's stop asking them 'what job they want to do' and instead help them to have a proactive attitude to life.  Encourage them to find new way to develop their natural talents and explore their passions and interests. Help them become more self-sufficient; get them to think for themselves by asking and valuing their opinion on important issues and world events.

This will help them navigate their own way and begin their journey with their best foot forward! We can then breathe a big sigh of relief, stop worrying and leave their destination in their own capable hands.


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Karen Claridge | Coaching for Success | Edge Coaching Academy | Student Coaching Perth