Did you take your child to work this week?
If you did, fantastic! I hope, for your child, it was much more than just a fun day away from school where he or she played games on your computer while you got work done. I encourage you to embrace your role in giving your child a healthy view of work. Helping your child understand what you do, and why, helps plant seeds for future career decisions.
Whether or not it’s on the official day, your child will benefit from hearing your view of life in the business world. Share with her the things you do, how you do them, and how you are providing for your family’s needs.
Ultimately, we should be involved in shaping our children as future workers. The point is not to push them toward some dream we have for them, but to help them discover ways their unique gifts might translate into a career someday.
It’s important to keep this in mind: Children who are given opportunities to explore a wide variety of interests and hobbies are more likely to get involved in a job they love. As they grow, we can help them identify and apply their talents.
Here are 8 action points to help you shape your child’s career decisions:
- Help your child brainstorm about career possibilities—and don’t wait until high school. Help him match up his interests with a certain line of work. If he likes music, point out that there’s much more to it than performing. He could be a sound technician, or a producer, a composer or a radio executive. Use the library or Internet to expand his horizons.
- Expose your child to jobs that might interest her. Take her to meet someone who has that job, and encourage her to keep in touch. Take a tour, and ask lots of questions about the process of turning out a product or performing a service. Help her discover what it’s really like before she spends years finding out it isn’t what she thought.
- Point out less visible occupations—like airplane mechanic, surveyor, social worker, computer programmer, or restaurant manager. Help them see that there’s more than the firefighters, nurses, police officers, or professional athletes that kids commonly see and idolize.
- Try not to talk negatively about your work. You communicate a lot about work when you get home. Those comments under your breath make a big impression, and shape your child’s ideas about work. How do your words reflect your attitudes about work? Do your children hear you talk about the joys of meeting a challenge, and the privilege of earning a living at something you enjoy? Or are you always griping and complaining? Do all you can to stay positive.
- Keep dreams alive. Some children do grow up to be sports stars, but they could also be a coach, sports journalist, or play-by-play announcer. Some actually become movie stars, but the movie industry also needs lighting technicians, screenwriters, set designers, make-up artists, and so on. Encourage your children’s dreams and you may be surprised where it leads.
- Help your child see the opportunities in front of her. If she likes to skate, for example, she could be a teacher’s assistant or get a part time job at the rink. Show your child that there are jobs that involve the things they enjoy.
- Encourage an entrepreneurial spirit. Those baby-sitting and lawn mowing jobs teach your kids that time and effort have their rewards. Even young children can begin to learn this by helping at your summer garage sale. Sure, not every lemonade stand will be a huge success, but those setbacks can be even more valuable learning opportunities. Why didn’t it work? What could he do differently next time? Lemonade stand lessons at age eight can still be used at twenty-eight.
- Help your child choose a career for the right reasons. There are many wrong reasons. Money can’t buy lasting satisfaction. Fame is fleeting. And even though it may be gratifying to see a child follow your career path, it’s much more important that he choose something that matches his own gifts and interests.
Your child may or may not follow in your vocational footsteps, but it’s likely that she will imitate your values and attitudes about work. That may be a bigger responsibility than whatever is waiting for you in your inbox.
I know some of you are equipping your kids in other ways. Please share your and comments below or at our Facebook page.
Carey Casey is the CEO of the National Center for Fathering, a nonprofit organization dedicated to changing the culture of fathering in America by enlisting 6.5 million fathers who to make the Championship Fathering Commitment. NCF believes that every child needs a dad they can count on, and uses its resources to inspire and equip men to be the involved fathers, grandfathers and father figures their children need. Subscribe to his weekly email tip by clicking here: “Yes! I want tips on how to be a great dad who loves, coaches, mentors, and inspires my children.