Sending your child off to college comes with so much hope for their future. You have faith they’ll find their way, even if their journey into adulthood happens away from home on their own terms. But what if their field of study and career choice begins to closely align with your own?
Following you into the same business or career may delight you, but it could also be worrisome. After all, you have first-hand knowledge of the difficulties they could encounter and your instinct may be to protect them. The good news is that you persevered, and chances are they will too.
Being there at the beginning of their career path may be thrilling, but be careful how you express your enthusiasm. If you’re overinvolved, it could impede your student’s growth. The key to their success is for you to encourage and guide but also respect their decisions.
Is this really what your child wants?
Consciously and unconsciously, you’ve influenced your child’s choices. Ask why they want to pursue this particular field of study to make sure they’re considering their own best interests. This can then become an opportunity for you to talk about what you do and why, and share your own experiences – both good and bad.
Ken Maas, a filmmaker, and his wife Amy, an actress, weren’t surprised when their son Daniel wanted to study filmmaking. “We took him to movies constantly when he was young,” said Maas, “and now converse with him regularly about our experiences in the industry.”
Film was clearly a passion for Daniel, who began reviewing movies for a local newspaper when he was in elementary school, so entering a film program was a choice that his parents supported.
Blogger and restaurateur Remy Bernard shared a love of food with her restaurateur father. “Growing up, I knew that I would follow in his footsteps and study culinary arts,” she said, and though her father never explicitly encouraged her, he supported her decision to attend culinary school.
What if you’re not sure they’re right for the role?
While you may feel you know what your child’s talents are, this may not be the time to discourage them from exploring a career that could be their life’s work.
What you can do is give positive feedback for the skills they excel at, while encouraging them when they struggle. Resist the urge to help too much since they’re developing the skills to figure it out on their own.
Maas knew that Daniel had both the talent and commitment, but he also knew that his son’s academic focus would create challenges when looking for work, so he offered some of his own insight.
“He wanted to direct and for the past few years, he’s wanted to write,” Maas said. “I advised him that those are the toughest fields to work in, and it may make sense to start in a different role, where he would have a better chance of breaking in.”
It’s not your career, it’s theirs
While your experience is valuable, remember to be the parent, not the career coach. Avoid constantly checking on their progress since they’re setting the goals. You may think you’re giving good advice, but it could come off as being too pushy.
Keep an open mind as your child evolves. The path your student is on is different from yours, and the industry has likely changed from when you began your course of study and entered the field.
When Bernard went away to school, her father often questioned if she was learning to do things “the right way.” She respected his knowledge but stayed focused on her own journey.
“My father was concerned for me,” she said. “He wanted to be sure that I understood how much work and study it took to own a successful restaurant and how hard it was to turn a profit.”
Bernard did absorb many lessons from conversations with her father, which brought them closer and strengthened their adult relationship.
Be an ally
While you may not approve of every move your child makes, value their choices and the actions they take to achieve success. Regardless of where they end up, if they know you’re on their side, your student will head in the right direction.
Daniel Maas moved to Los Angeles after he graduated from film school. He heeded his father’s advice and gained an understanding of the industry by taking on different freelance film jobs.
“He’s still trying to write the great American screenplay,” said Maas, who also notes that, like many aspiring screenwriters, Daniel accepted a position outside of the film business for now so he can support himself as he works toward his goals.