PARENTS serve as a major influence in their children’s career development and career decision- making. They want their children to find happiness and success in life and one factor which influences happiness and success is career choice. Research also indicates that when students feel supported and loved by their parents, they have more confidence in their own ability to research careers and to choose a career that would be interesting and exciting.
This is important because adolescents, who feel competent regarding career decision-making, tend to make more satisfying career choices later in life.
In recent times, parents are more involved in their children’s university course choices than they used to be, so that where one might once have addressed a child thus, “what do you want to be when you grow up?” Perhaps, considering parental ambitions – one ought to rephrase the question: “What do your parents want you to be when you grow up?”
Parents can be an important and positive influence in decisions affecting a young person’s career development. But then, over-involvement in the decision- making process can undermine parental effects as a positive source of influence.
Excessive parental control regarding adolescents’ occupational decision-making results in negative outcomes. Parents should be cautioned against imposing their own goals on their children or seeing their child’s accomplishments as a reflection of themselves. So, while parents should show genuine interest and support for their adolescents’ career plans, they must allow adolescents to discover who they are on their own. Some teenagers fear the disapproval of their parents if they pursue a career in art/drama/music as opposed to a practical high-earning occupation such as law or medicine.
If parents make it clear that they have no specific expectations for their child’s career, he/she will feel free to explore a greater variety of professions, choosing one based on their own preferences rather than those of their parents.
Parents should guard against shooting down ideas that their children may have about their future careers. If they react negatively, it may shut down the whole exploration process. Parents need to keep the lines of communication open, and encourage their child to gather as much information as possible on their career interest areas. A parent must recognize that their role is simply to act as a facilitator in their child’s career journey and allowing independent career choices marks a young person’s first real step into adulthood.
Reacting to this issue, Oby Okwesili, a Guidance Counsellor attached to Bright Star Academy, Onitsha, said “trying to decide your child’s career path can actually be damaging to his or her development and confidence. I have heard some people speak openly of their disappointments when their children want to study courses like environmental science or music as the case may be. They would have liked them to go into law or medicine. I know that different parents may have different expectations for their children. But then, their duty as parents should be more of suggestive, telling their children the implication of every course of study they might want to choose. Forcing children to follow a laid down plan when it comes to choosing the course they will study doesn’t always produce a good end result, considering how important this choice is.
Most times, trying to manipulate children in their decisions about their course of study can result to conflict, as not every child, on becoming an adult, is happy with the pressure felt as a consequence of such decision,”
“Adolescents valued parental influence and guidance in the area of career choice and vocational development. It is important for parents to give students support and encouragement to explore the many options available to find the best career fit. It is best to start the discussion as early as possible, don’t wait until students are looking at their WAEC forms in sixth year. Much of the formative discussions should have happened well before this stage.
If the process is started early, there is less likelihood of making unwise decisions. If possible, introduce your son/daughter to someone currently doing the course or working in the career area. Look at the list of proposed courses and find out if your son/daughter has researched each course thoroughly. Any course that has not been thoroughly researched should not be on the list. Where possible also, take him or her to a Guidance Counsellor to discuss the course he or she has chosen”, she concluded.
In the same vein, Mr Onyekwelu, a civil servant, said, “the most important thing a parent can do is to allow a child’s abilities and interests to unfold”. He warns it can be damaging to try to influence a child’s choice, not only because the child might not like or be very good at whatever it is the parent wants them to do, but because by the time the child joins the professional world, the world may have moved on, and the child may not be able to adapt to these changes.
You see, it is really harmful to impose our own ambitions or expectations on a child because they may only come to the realisation years later that the path chosen for them is not something they want to pursue.” By all means, parents should work hard with a child if they show real interest and talent in a particular direction. Because most parents do not have the comparative information that is available to schools and in the wider world, they should aim to support their son or daughter in their voyage of discovering about themselves and not try to set the destination,” he concluded.
On her own part, Mrs Ibenegbu, a public servant, said, “for me, I think that although it should always be the child’s decision, because there is no other motivation for choosing any course of study than what is right for the child, parents should be there and deeply involved to advise and ensure that the all-important choice is not after all a poor one which will carry consequences for years. Parents should not leave them to their own fate because children always need to be guided in everything they do”.
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