How to help your high-schooler think about careers

At a glance

  • Understanding your teen’s learning and thinking differences can help them think about potential careers.

  • Your child’s interests can also give your teen direction as they consider career possibilities.

  • Kids with learning and thinking differences need extra help planning their future.

Four years can go by fast. If your child has learning and thinking differences, you might wonder how you can help your teen get an edge in a tough job market. Just as your child needs extra help at school, your teen will need extra help planning their future. Here are five steps that can help get your teenager thinking about a possible career.

Work on self-awareness.

Teenagers may think their learning and thinking differences apply only to school. But it’s important for high-schoolers to understand that these issues won’t go away after they get a diploma; they may be with them for life. Having self-awareness and accepting themself is a great first step to help prepare for adult life. Your teen may even discover that their issues give them other important life skills, such as patience, determination, and the ability to understand that others have their own challenges.

Explore and build interests.

Knowing which activities your child loves most can help them discover future career paths. Maybe your teen likes being outdoors or working with younger children. Or perhaps your high-schooler enjoys playing computer games and making friends online. If your child is less sure of their interests, your child can try out a variety of activities. Art classes, music lessons, sports, and other hobbies can help teens learn what they enjoy and boost their confidence as they look toward the future.

Learn the value of work.

Working isn’t just about making money. It’s important for your child to understand how a good job helps build a happy life, too. Show your child where you work and talk about your job. Explain its rewards and its challenges. Encourage your teen to talk to friends and family about their jobs, too. This network may also be able to help your high-schooler find internships and volunteer work in a field that matters to them.

Build work skills.

Start your child off by having them do regular chores around the house, such as yard work and walking the dog. Then have your teen market their services to friends and neighbors — for pay. Or encourage and help your child get a part-time job. The opportunity to work early on teaches teens the importance of arriving on time, solving problems, and working well with others. These habits will stick and give them an edge when seeking jobs and building a career in the future.

Create a transition plan.

A is a strategy for helping your child move from high school to adult life. If your child has an Individualized Education Program (), discussions about transition will begin at age 14 or 15. At 16, transition services will be built into your teen’s IEP.

Even without an IEP, your child’s skills and interests will guide you and school counselors to create a plan to prepare for the future. The plan should include educational and career goals for after high school. It will list ways your child can prepare for those goals in the next few years.

It’s important to make sure the goals your high-schooler sets are realistic and spell out specific steps your teen will take to get there. Remember to keep real — but still high — expectations for your child. The more confident you are in your teen’s ability to succeed, the harder your teen will work to reach goals.

Key takeaways

  • Your child’s career goals should be ones they can reach.

  • Having even small jobs as a teen can build good work habits.

  • A transition plan can help your child reach career goals.

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