3 Tips For Talking To Your Teen About College That Work

Have fun talking about your teens future with your teen. Jamie Grill,Tetra Images via Getty Images

Want to know what top sociology researchers found to be one of the most effective ways for parents to help their children become successful? It's talking to your teen about their future career and college options. The researchers found that this was effective for all parents, regardless of class race, or parents education level, according to the meta-analysis in The Broken Compass; Parental Involvement with Children's Education by Keith Harris and Angel Robinson.

It makes sense that helping teens plan for their future will help them be successful. Here are some tips to make sure your guidance is helpful to your teen:

Start Talking About College and Career Early

Don't want until the last two years of high school to start talking to your teen about their future. Ideally, start talking about possible careers and college in middle school. Most children develop the ability to seriously think about what their adult lives might look like in the middle school years. This is a good time for teens to explore what they might want, and develop realistic expectations (see tip #2 below). Your middle schooler probably won't keep the same career goal for the rest of their lives. That's okay. They will benefit from the process of looking at their interests and developing plans to get the goal. Don't worry about changing goals; it will give them more experience planning.

The reason for starting early is that it helps teens to see why it is important to do well in school now. When I worked as a tutor in a middle school I was amazed to see how previously unmotivated teens suddenly got serious about school once they thought about their future goals. I watched kids who whined about even having to go to school at all begin working hard on their school work.

They realized that if they wanted a good career in the future, they would have to do their school work now to get the career.

Help Your Teen Identify What They Want, and What it Will Take To Get there

Talk with your teen about their interests and what lifestyle they would like to live in the future. Do they want to buy a home or rent one? What cities or regions of the country would they like to live in? Then look into the costs and needed budget for that lifestyle. See if their career choice would support how they want to live. You can find online budget calculators to figure out how much they will need to earn to live the lifestyle they are planning. They can compare how they want to live with the earning potential of different careers. That information can be found from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. If their career choice won't support the lifestyle they want, ask your teen what they are willing to change - a different career, or to give up some of their wants?

This is a long process and probably won't happen over just one conversation. Expect to talk about this a few minutes at a time over several weeks. Expect your teen to change their mind a lot as they consider the possibilities.

This helps your teen create a dream based in reality. Rather than having them blindly choose a career that interests them or that they show an aptitude for, your teen will be thinking of why they want to work in the first place. It is a way to plan for the life they want to have someday. They will understand how much money they will need to live and what careers will pay those wages.

You and your teen can also find information about the required education they will need to get after high school to get the career of their choice. This is what creates the motivation to work harder in school now. Your teen will see how the choices they make in school now will affect their adult lives.

3.  Get Personal, and Share Your Own Story With Your Teen

Parents are the biggest influence on their children. Your child or teen is watching and learning from you all of the time. Use this to your advantage and talk with them about your household budget and how much you make at your job. Talk with them about how the choices you made determined how you are living today. Don't feel bad or judge yourself if you wish you had made more or were living a different lifestyle. The point is that your child can see how your career and that of your spouse determines how much money you have. This can help your teen see the real life decisions involved in career and financial business.

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