Mireille Moisan, Guidance counsellor

Member, Ordre des conseillers et conseillères d’orientation du Québec

Soon, like every year, hundreds of Secondary 5 students across Quebec begin their registration process in a college or vocational institution. It is a crucial stage for these youth who are affirming their choices for the future. What does it all mean for parents? Is it easy to endorse their child’s decision? Not likely! We often forget that this is also an extraordinary moment for parents, as they must also experience various emotions related to this important decision.

Youth career choices and parent fears

During early childhood, parents easily guide and support their child at daycare, at school and in their personal lives. The child, even if stubborn, mostly complies with parental decisions, as parents represent the authority figure in almost all situations. Once adolescence comes into play however, it becomes more and more difficult to have an impact on their child’s decisions. Nowhere is this more evident than when it is time to choose a career.

Leaving home, choice of an unusual career, studies that don’t correspond to their expectations; parents dread these elements, and many more, because they simply want the best for their children.

Legitimate fears come into play: fear that their child will not find a job that allows them to live well, fear that they will leave the family nest, fear that they will make a “bad choice” or that they will “lose” them… These fears cause insecurity in parents and sometimes even a degree of closed-mindedness towards the child’s endeavours, often unintentionally.

To allay their fears

  • Rest assured: it’s normal! It is important to know that these fears, often motivated by parental love, are felt by many people. That said, parents are not always aware that these fears greatly influence how they support (or do not support) their child in this process. To better understand the source of these fears, they should try to talk about them with their adolescent, listen to what they have to say, find out what they are attracted to, and explore with them fields of interest.
  • Explore, explore, explore! Accompanying your child in their exploration is often very revealing and reassuring for the parent who can get to know them better, explore the unknown together, reassure themselves about the programs and institutions they choose, and sometimes even disprove prejudices against certain fields of study.
  • Ditch the drama! It is important to keep in mind that the “right” choice or the “wrong” choice do not exist! Regardless of the program chosen, these are experiences that help your child get to know themselves better. It is no longer true that one “chooses for life” because in college, university and even at work, opportunities abound, and one must choose betwee specializations or further training. Believing that choices are permanent causes great anxiety for youth and their parents. Considering varied educational and occupational pathways is normal and healthy for the vocational development of any individual.
  • Trust yourself! It seems easier for some parents to step back because they feel they know little about academic and professional information, preferring to leave it in the hands of the student and their guidance counsellor. However, not knowing can induce even more anxiety for the parent, and even affect their relationship with their child who may feel the parents are uninterested. There are a variety of tools that help people learn more, and encourage interesting and useful discussions between young people and their parents: job and training fairs, the internet, books and materials related to school and professional information, open houses, “student for a day” programs, etc.

Of course, the school’s guidance counsellor remains an important resource to support the student and his parents throughout this great adventure! Don’t hesitate to consult them!