When your child is in pain, you feel it. Watching from the sidelines as your child is struggling with their career can be frustrating. On top of that, it can be painful to watch your child wrestle with self-confidence or self-imposed pressure. You already know that parenting is a balancing act. Providing support while encouraging independence is always tricky. But what is the right amount of support when your child is struggling in this area?
Validate Without Focusing on Your Child’s Emotions
It can be hard to know where to draw the line between offering positive encouragement and setting realistic expectations. If you get swallowed up by negative feelings, you are allowing blame on external factors like the “incompetent college guidance counselor”, “unfair interviewer” or the “terrible job market”. This only feeds negative energy and limits moving forward. Your child will gain more when you encourage them to build their own accountability.
Create and Maintain Boundaries
Empathizing with your child helps you understand the situation from their vantage point. It is important to not get swallowed up in their emotions, however, and find ways to maintain your objectivity. They are looking to you to be strong anchor. Try to not let their emotions activate your own.
Process Your Emotions Without Judgment
It might be hard not to be envious of a neighbor whose daughter is climbing up the career ladder and just bought her first house while your child is living at home with a minimum wage part time job. You are human and will have thoughts and emotions of your own. First, find support for yourself, whether a friend, family member or professional with whom you can share your thoughts. Make sure you are maintaining your health and wellbeing. Lastly, ask yourself why your child’s actions are stirring up emotions in you to see if you can reframe the situation.
While there is no magic formula, you can support your child in a variety of ways by picking up on their cues. Forcing a conversation when they are not in the mood to talk will not be productive. However, as a parent, chances are you are resourceful. If your child can’t seem to figure out what direction they want to pursue, offer them to take an abilities assessment or see if your professional contacts would be willing to engage in an informational interview with your child
If your child is receptive to your ideas, help them devise systems that work for them. For example, if your child is a linear thinker, perhaps offering assistance in creating an excel spreadsheet to track her contacts or job opportunities would benefit. Or help your child set one goal a day if they are motivated by progress. If you notice that your conversations with your child have plateaued, it might be time to reach out to a third party for support such as a career coach who can offer objective expertise. Together, you and your child can explore options to decide which makes the most sense to pursue.