Parents often wonder if they should be involved in their child’s career choice. There are pros and cons to both sides of the argument. On one hand, parents can offer valuable insight and guidance based on their experience in the workforce. On the other hand, too much involvement could limit a child’s ability to make their own decisions.
Parents exert a strong influence on how their children choose careers. They may influence them directly and indirectly, intentionally and inadvertently, consciously and unconsciously. Since parents generally live with the child during the formative years, they tend to have a strong influence on how their children make career decisions.
While most parents report having little to no influence on their children’s careers, research indicates that children have a different perception, stating that their parents played a significant role in their career choices.
Research shows that parental norms and values most often affect children’s career aspirations via parental interactions (Lavine, 1982), involvement in schoolwork (Simpson, 2003), and gender expectations (Jacobs, Chhin & Bleeker, 2006; Hesse-Biber & Carter, 2000). While parents may assume other variables, such as occupation or education, to be most influential, their influence is most often exerted through normative channels, including their interest in schoolwork and aspirations for educational achievement (Simpson, 2003).
What are the Pros of Children Choosing a Career Based on Their Parents’ Expectations?
According to Michael Rutter (2000), “Young people tend both to share their parents’ values on major issues of life and also to turn to them for guidance on most major concerns.” Therefore, parents’ financial and socio-emotional support for a particular career path may boost the child’s self-esteem and career self-efficacy.
In addition to financial and socio-emotional support, parents provide valuable learning experiences through their own role models and supporting activities in exploring career interests.
What are the Cons of parent’s Involvement in the Child’s Career Choice?
The danger is that children may aspire to a career that follows their parents’ norms and values without developing their own sense of self. Jacobsen (1999) pointed out the following wager: “If your family’s values mesh with your own, you can find strength and guidance in them throughout your career. However, if these values don’t mesh, you’ll build a career that your parents take pride in, but that leaves you frustrated and empty” (Jacobsen, 1999, p. 101). For that reason, parents need to understand the many ways they can influence their children’s career choices.
What is a healthy level of involvement for parents?
Planned and proactive parents’ involvement is the best approach. Before discussing career choices with their child, parents should reflect on their own expectations, unfulfilled childhood desires, and what had influenced their career choices.
Parents should strive for their child to do their best, regardless of their career choices. Research shows that children who are expected to do their best become more focused on career-relevant goals and report high motivational levels. This positively affects their ability to reach certain career goals, leading to a sense of accomplishment.
What are healthy ways for parents to help kids navigate career choices?
Parents can help their children navigate career choices by fostering a healthy balance of challenge and support within the relationship.
Challenge refers to the stimulation, discipline, or training that parents and other family members direct toward the child. It also includes the family’s expectations and how much that child wishes to fulfil those expectations. Family support refers to how parents respond to a child, including their levels of comfort and love within the home.
Parents help create a challenging and supportive environment when they allow their children to explore their own interests.
- Allow your child to explore all careers of interest. Let them shadow you at work for a day as well as other people (if possible).
- Attend career choices exhibitions.
- Encourage your child to talk to people from different careers and ask questions about their work and responsibilities.
- Discuss the career your child is interested in from a neutral perspective. Point out the pros and cons, but don’t try to influence a decision.
Acting this way, parents can serve as inspiring role models and empower their children to make their own career choices.
You can use the Superpower Kids My Career Exploration printable.