Your Children or Teenagers feeling the stress, anxiety, strain of career development?
When I was at school I remember having those careers advise sessions.
Choosing a path of learning, I was told, was an integral part of a student’s life and a decision of paramount importance.
However, the pressure of building a career from a very young age is a little too much for young minds. I wanted to be a nurse, or a physiotherapist, or an astronaut.
In the world we live in, the changing career landscape may have presented children with a whole new set of opportunities, but it also loads of distress.
The process of choosing a career path is usually undertaken at quite a young age when, let's face it, many of us in our 40s are just finding the thing we really want to do.
At this time in our lives students are not even fully aware of their loves, passions or interests.
While for some the career choice is pre-decided by their parents, others often struggle to find the right career path, going through alot of pressure.
I worked with a top surgeon last year who had Trichotillomania, also known as trich, this is when someone cannot resist the urge to pull out their hair.
They may pull out the hair on their head or in other places, such as their eyebrows or eyelashes.
His issue was connected with a strong dislike of blood, he'd climbed the ladder of success to please his parents and was deeply unhappy in his job.
He is now involved with brain mapping and doing some amazing research. A role a lot less bloody and is no longer pulling out his hair.
The impact on us starts in childhood but very often follows us into adulthood.
Unhappiness in career options can be a root cause of so many mental and physical challenges. Manifesting as pain, frustration, anger, dissolution, depression....the list is endless.
The whole exercise of career-building from a young age can adversely affect young minds in the following ways:
Grades heavily influence the career stream, students are under pressure to score well. As a result, the focus is on getting good grades instead of acquiring knowledge.
When students are not able to score well, they are overwhelmed with feelings of extreme sadness and hopelessness.
Even if students are able to pursue their desired fields, if half way through they realise it’s not in sync with their interests and aptitude. They feel stuck, but due to the parental or societal pressure, they fail to speak about it which has a detrimental effect on their mind.
Even if students are able to achieve their career dreams, the constant pressure that they face throughout their academic journey pushes them to the edge of depression and sometimes they are not able to enjoy the fruits of their successes.
Often, informing students about the importance of career-building at a young age instils in them a fear of the future. Even if they may be performing well, feelings of self-doubt and insecurity can be there.
The pressure to perform well throughout the academic journey to get a strong foundation for a great career can bring on anxiety in students and may lead to eating disorders, depression and in some cases even suicide.
Add to that a pandemic.... waaaaaaaaaaa we've got a heap of youngsters having a tough time.
How can we help?
Let's create conditions that inspire young minds to grow and flourish. Let's guide them and enable them to build their confidence, resilience and grit.
We need to normalise ‘not knowing’. We have no idea where life will take us. Its crucial we take the pressure off, that immense pressure children put on themselves to know everything at every step.
It’s okay to not know what they want to do for the rest of their lives. Finding a suitable career path takes quite a bit of introspection, let's allow them to be on an adventure, to be just curious about where life could take them.
Children benefit from encouraged to follow their dreams. This is where parents can step in. Supporting a child to believe in their abilities with empathy and openness to their child’s perspective. Easier to say than do.... I get it...
Children often feel powerless when bombarded with career choices. The heaviness of having to make a decision at such a young age may shape the course of the rest of their lives and can lead to anxiety.
If your child is feeling the impact or is struggling with lots if stress and anxiety it is hugely helpful to seek professional help.
Instead of pushing them towards a career path, let's let children explore various fields, to feel the fun of the adventure of life, excited and curious.
If they feel confused, there are some great career assessment tests can help gauge their interests, skills, values and personality to help them find out more about themselves.
Students can use the test results to further formulate and clarify their career goals and direction if they're ready.
Life is full of complex challenges and hurdles.
From an early stage, if the focus was on building effective social and emotional competencies and capabilities this would give our children tools, techniques, knowledge the ability to overcome complex challenges and hurdles that life may throw at them.
To conclude, as teachers, academicians, parents and mentors, we should provide the best support to young minds.
The focus from an early stage should not be on career building but rather on developing essential life skills that will enable young minds to learn to adapt and deal with the demands and challenges of life effectively.
If you're a parent with concerns or a child that needs some help with mental health and wellbeing do get in touch.