4 Ways to Set Expectations for Your Children

A growing number of parents to young adult children complain that their kids are returning home after college, with no real sense of urgency about establishing their careers and becoming independent. The reasons probably vary from family to family, but one thing is certain—you have to start early with casting a vision and setting expectations for the future for your children. (If your children are already teens or older, here are 5 Ways to Help Teens and Young Adults Become Independent.) Here are some things to think about:

1. Take the Story Out a Little Further. Lots of us talk to our kids about what to expect next: after grammar school is junior high, then high school, then college. But we don’t talk as much about what happens after college or professional training. Go ahead and talk to your children about the jobs they’ll have one day, and what that might look like. It will help them envision themselves in that role and succeeding.

2. Don’t Worry About the Specifics. Some parents likely avoid making assumptions about what their children will be doing in their adult lives because they don’t want to be guilty of pigeon-holing their kids into a particular career path. So make it clear that life after college might be as a doctor, a computer engineer, or an artist. But make it clear that we all have to find something meaningful and productive to do with our lives.

3. Encourage the Child Who Can’t See It. Some kids are bold dreamers who are making big plans in preschool. Others are more timid and don’t know if they could ever do ‘big, grown-up things.’ Encourage your more cautious child to realize that she can do big things, and that it will all seem much more realistic and achievable when she’s a little older.

4. Point Out the Relationship between Today’s Work and Tomorrow’s Career. When you’re slogging through those multiplication tables, remind your child that math will be very important to his future career—especially if he chooses a math or science-based career. It gives today more meaning, and reinforces that we’re working toward a greater goal.

Related Resource: The Danger of Negative Expectations

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