Parents obviously want what’s best for their kids. What mom do you know that wouldn’t bend over backwards for one of her children? And yet, there a few things that are somewhat out of your control – like whether they have a nourishing social life, or, later in life, whether they become fulfilled by their work.
While the parents of old might have pushed their children into a certain profession (often their own, as a form of passing down the family trade), nowadays parents are more careful to ensure their children do what they love, what fulfils them.
Having said that, you want to encourage your child’s passions, make sure they remain intellectually and creatively curious. That begs the question: is it too early to start thinking about your child’s career? Let’s discuss.
The Short Answer: No
For the sake of argument: no, it’s not too early to start thinking about your child’s career. From the moment they show signs of a unique and curious personality, children are drawn to certain things, certain interests and hobbies. Some kids might love geeking out on dinosaurs. Other kids might revel in filming movies with dad’s iPad.
Does that mean your dinosaur-obsessed kid is definitely going to become a paleontologist, or that your little filmmaker is necessarily going to be a movie director? No, of course not. But they have charted a potential path for themselves through their interests, and it’s your job to think about that path, to take it seriously.
Encouraging Interests Without Pushing Agendas
Let’s take those two examples above: the budding paleontologist and the fledgling movie director. You don’t want to push them towards those professions, to the point that they feel they have no say in the matter, no room for alternatives. But you can, of course, encourage those interests through extracurricular classes, reading, mentorship programs and camps.
Give your budding paleontologist books about fossils for Christmas, and take them regularly to the museum. The lights camera action on your film industry career can be as simple as connecting your kid with mentors who have experience with different aspects of filmmaking.
Your budding paleontologist might discover that they would rather be a museum curator; your fledgling director might decide they would rather be an actor. This is part of the fun of watching your kids grow and change. Which brings us to the following…
Remaining Open to Change and Exploration
It happens often with parents: they become so excited by their children’s chosen interests that they feel disappointed when their child changes his/her mind. Your child might even enter college wanting to be a doctor, only to become very taken with environmental studies. They might have ambitions to become a lawyer, only to decide that it is “helping people” they were initially drawn to, and become a social worker.
These changes can be difficult sometimes, but parents have to weather them by understanding that children – at a certain point – have to be trusted to act in their own self-interest. They will do what makes them happy, even if it isn’t what makes you the proudest. That, in itself, should be a source of pride.
In conclusion: regardless of age, think about your child’s interests and encourage them to intellectually and creatively explore what makes them happy, but remain open to change.