Let Youngsters Follow their Hearts
A teacher cum parent’s views on how to guide children to choose their career.
The minds of parents are always abuzz with thoughts of their children’s future, especially the parents whose children are studying in higher grades. With the umpteen number of career options available these days, it is not at all an easy call to make. Parents often push their child to opt for a career that will provide them financial stability and lift their social status, but not necessarily something that they really enjoy doing. No doubt, parents always care about the well-being and success of their children. Hence, they try to choose a career path for their child, which, at least, guarantees them a livelihood. However, in the process of doing so, many times, certain talents and qualities of their children get sidelined.
I personally think this is a major mistake all parents are making. It is a proven fact that the productivity of a person is maximised when they do something they like or enjoy. There are so many examples of people diverting from their field of studies to excel in totally disparate careers. There are engineers who have started restaurant chains; qualified doctors who have become actors and musicians, and so on. I wonder what kind of role their parents have played in their career choices.
The ‘What-If’ Factor
The choice will prove beneficial only if the child can find peace in whatever he or she finally ends up doing. Parents unconsciously play a huge gamble in predefining the career path of their child and directing them towards it. If the gamble pays off, everybody is happy. But the tragedy occurs when their predefined choice backfires— children slowly lose interest in what they are doing even if it is paying them well.
The Social Pressure
Another common practice followed by parents is to look at what one’s neighbour or friend is up to. “If his son can do it, why can’t mine?” is a question that often crosses the minds of parents. The level of comparison between children of peers and friends can become extreme when you are not content even when your child has done very well. In such cases, even when you are happy with your child’s performance, some people will try to make you feel that their performance was below par. My own son had four A1 grades and one A2 grade in his Class Xth CBSE examinations. We, as a family, were happy and proud of his performance. But our acquaintances tried to console us, assuming that we were heartbroken because of him missing out on the one A1!
Society can be very judgemental about career choices. Often, the pressure of the close ones may force the parents to change or reanalyse their decisions, even when they have a clear idea about the child’s interests and choices.
Parents’ Profession: A Security Blanket
Parents also try to influence their children’s career keeping their own professions in mind. A lot of them want their children to follow their footsteps. Some parents also try to live their unfulfilled dreams through their children. In each of these aforementioned cases, however, the parents choose their comfort zones over their children’s. Some children are so adaptive that it doesn’t matter what they get into. They easily blend into it and come out with flying colours. But all children are not so fortunate. Some are stuck with a life which they are forced to live because of the decisions made by their parents on their behalf.
The Marriage Criterion
I think the most absurd reason for choosing a particular field of study that I have heard is to improve the chances of getting a good alliance in marriage. Children are sent to study engineering, medicine, dentistry, etc. because of the social status these professions have. This strangely becomes leverage for marriage proposals, and unfortunately, in most of these cases, the women ultimately end up as homemakers.
A Balanced Decision
I think parents should trust their own instincts and take the child’s aspirations and talents into consideration before choosing a career path for them. If a child has taken a clear decision regarding what he or she is planning to do in future, parents should completely support them. If they feel that whatever the children are saying is not appropriate for them, then they should have an open discussion regarding the pros and cons but should agree and support the decision if the child still wants to pursue it. Once a father came to me and told that he had already reserved a seat for his daughter in an engineering college. The child wanted to become a psychologist. The father asked me to advise her and make her accept his decision. I was not willing to do this and after some amount of serious coaxing, the father agreed to the daughter’s wish. She is now a clinical psychologist of great repute and is thoroughly enjoying her profession. This incident has reinforced my belief that children must be permitted to pursue their passion, however illogical it may sound.
First and foremost, parents should understand their children well to be able to guide them towards the right career choice. For this, it is necessary to spend quality time with them and openly talk to them regarding their aspirations. It also helps to monitor how they are responding towards different subjects, which will give them a small insight into the interest of the child. In case parents are unable to facilitate this, they can take professional help, such as aptitude evaluation tests, school career counselling programmes, etc. Moreover, one should not rush while making a decision. What is important is to eventually find out what is best for the child. Therefore, the priority should be to approach the whole process with an open mind, keeping the best interest of one’s child in consideration.