The role of the parent in the career guidance process

Parents can serve as a major influence in their children’s career decision-making. Research indicates that when students feel supported by their parents, they have more confidence in their own ability to choose a suitable path for themselves. It is a grand generalisation, however, to believe that parents can always influence the level of education or motivation their children have to succeed. The opposite effect can also occur; over-involvement in the decision-making process can undermine parental effects as a positive source of influence. So while parents should show genuine interest for children’s career plans, they must allow adolescents to discover who they are on their own and not impose their own agenda. Key influences include opportunities parents offer their children to learn and develop, the kind of parent-child relationship they develop, and the values they show to their family, friends, and to society.

Some teenagers fear the disapproval of their parents if they pursue a career in alternative careers, art/drama, etc, 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. This will also help eliminate failure and drop out as they go further into their course. We have seen time and time again that when children find their niche, regardless of academic ability, they flourish.

One of the main determining factors in how students perform is their self-esteem. One of the main drivers that determine a teenager’s view of themselves is how those that matter to them react. If we react with disappointment they may inadvertently view this as disappointment in them as individuals. One of the worst things we can do both as parents and as educators is compare them to others, particularly siblings. This can be soul destroying for a young person.

Leaving Cert year

Beginning sixth year can bring on worry and anxiety for young people. The heavy workload can seem overwhelming at times. Therefore, if students take this challenge one day at a time and focus on what they need to do today rather than the whole curriculum, it can be helpful in terms of managing stress. It is best to start a conversation as early as possible about what they would like to do after school. Parents need to keep the lines of communication open. The Institute of Guidance Counsellors (IGC ) advise some of the following as danger signs in your child’s approach to watch out for:

Waiting until the last minute to make decisions.

Unrealistic expectations.

Promises to work miracles with study next term.

Carrying too many higher-level subjects in spite of poor reports from teachers.

Lax approach to homework.

Interference from social activities or a weekend job which is funding their social life.

Selecting a course because the career is well paid. They are more likely to gain a good result in their degree if they enjoy and are interested in the course.

Things a parent can do to help:

Read up on the relevant courses.

Make sure their son/daughter goes to some open days and career events. Two useful upcoming events in Galway include Options West, held this year on October 22 in the Galway Bay Hotel, and Pathways, a colleges and careers event being hosted by the Galway Advertiser in April next year.

Look at the list of proposed courses in which your child has expressed interest and find out if he/she has researched each one thoroughly. Any course that has not been thoroughly researched should not be on the list.

Have the CAO choices been discussed with the school guidance counsellor?

What is the backup plan if the predicted results do not happen?

If the school organises career talks for parents, make sure you are in attendance.

Be aware of the risks of failing a crucial higher-level paper such as English or maths. Subject teachers are best placed to advise in this area.

Attend parent/teacher meetings.

Make sure any exemptions are lodged with the NUI before the Leaving Cert.

Accept that all children have difference intelligences and with apprenticeships, traineeships, post Leaving Cert courses, colleges course, and direct entry to a specific job, there is something for everyone.

In the words of Einstein, “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will spend its whole life believing that it is stupid.”


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