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Friday Five: Five Ways to Help Your Child’s Career Development

As parents, we are our children’s first teachers. Many essential life skills are learned through modeling, observing, and in some cases, direct instruction. Long before a child enters any kind of formal educational setting, parents are teaching children the fundamentals of being a human, like how to walk, talk, and of course use the potty (very important indeed!). But one area that is virtually ignored is career development. Obviously, career development is important, and most parents would agree that they want their children to grow up and find a career that they enjoy. Here are five things that parents can do to foster a healthy sense of career development in their children.

Learn About the Career Development Process

The career development process is the same whether you are 5 or 50 years old, and it all begins with self-awareness. One must know their own values, interests, personality, and skills. Without this information, a career decision is incomplete. Oftentimes people are making career decisions based on one or two of these factors (typically interests and skills). Parents can assist their children by helping them build self-awareness in all areas.

Encourage Exploration

When children are young, exploration is key. Career decisions are many years away, so the focus is exposure to as much as possible. One simple way to do this is by reading books about different careers. Encourage children to explore what they like, what they are good at, and even what they aren’t so good at. Interest and skills can take years to develop. Early exploration builds skills, career awareness, and a variety of interests. All of which will be beneficial down the road.

Start Now

Many people are not familiar with even the basic steps of career development until high school or college. And while this may seem like an optimal time, it is often a time of high stress and anxiety. However, if the career development process is introduced well before a career decision needs to be made, and discussed often in an age-appropriate way, stress and unrealistic expectations can be reduced.

Share Your Own Career Experiences

A very easy way parents can help their children in the career development process is to share their own experiences. Make sure you are sharing what your work day was like, and what you enjoy about your job. But no need to sugarcoat it. Include the challenges and mistakes that occur on the job so children have an accurate idea of a typical work day.

Reserve Judgment

Children go through many phases before a career idea ultimately sticks. Regardless of what your child is currently interested in, it’s best to always talk about it in a positive way. I can’t tell you the number of college students that I have counseled that have found their passion, but it’s not accepted by their families. I advise parents to always come from a place of support. There are plenty of people and factors that will tell your child that they can’t do something. What they need from you is unconditional support.
Career development is a life-long process. It's never too early to start helping your children learn more about exploring the world of work!

Meet Ali Dunn

Ali Dunn is the founder of Me Two Books and the author of four children’s books: I Was a Preemie Just Like You, I Needed the NICU Just Like You,  One of Two, a Twin Story about Individuality, and The Career Explorer: An Introduction to Career Development and STEAM Careers. She is also the creator of an e-course for parents about Career Exploration. Ali is the chief mom officer of identical twins born at 28 weeks via emergency c-section. You can learn more about her books on her website and connect with her on her blog, Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook.


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