I will never forget a conversation I had with a first-year medical student while I was a professor in the UCLA Medical School. This student came to talk to me about a difficult decision she was wrestling with. She was an outstanding first year medical student, but sadly, she was not happy.
Although she had risen to the top of the competition just to enter such a prestigious medical school and made the many personal sacrifices to accomplish her success, this was not what she wanted for herself. When I asked her where her passion was, she surprised me by saying she wanted to be a pastry chef. Not too long after our conversation she left the medical school to fulfill her dream.
We Dream About Their Future
From the moment we look into the adorable eyes of our newborn baby, we begin to dream about their future. As parents, we foster that dream with outside activities and all kinds of inspiring words and actions as they grow. Then they enter adolescence and suddenly they start expressing their own ideas and visions for themselves.
If you are a parent of an adolescent child, what is your vision for your child? Maybe a better question is, have you explored your child’s vision for themselves? On occasion, the two visions will overlap, but my guess is that this is not a frequent occurrence. We had so much leverage over their activities and their ambitions when they were children, but as they mature to become young adults it is time to loosen the controls and let them dream.
Just consider how your life decisions have developed and changed through the years. Whatever your adolescent is determined to become today is likely to evolve as he/she matures. Rather than insisting they consider your vision for them, take this time to inspire creative thought on their part. At this age, the rapid brain development that is going on inside their head can lead to a lack of confidence in themselves. Suddenly there are too many options and they are likely to be a little overwhelmed with the responsibility that one day they are going to have to choose a direction for themselves.
Here are three ways to inspire your adolescent’s vision for themselves:
- At every opportunity find ways to express your confidence in their ability to think for themselves. This is an important transition time for both of you. You are letting go of your control over your child and they are beginning to take responsibility for themselves as they become a young adult.
- Without making it a formal event, work into your schedule times alone with your adolescent to listen to their ideas about their future. It is important to listen and not talk during these special moments so your child can believe you really care about what they think.
- Overcome your own disappointment if their vision does not match yours and remember this is just the beginning of the path and not the destination. Inspiring our kids to do their very best in school and in their extracurricular activities addresses character and not vision. Help them to see that they want to keep all avenues open for their future and that depends on striving to be their best today.
I am confident that my impressive first year medical student is currently a successful and personally fulfilled pastry chef somewhere. She knew what she wanted and she was willing to face the disappointment from people she loved to secure her future. She inspired me and when I left UCLA to begin writing anatomy books for children, a lifetime dream, I thought about my conversation with her. How crazy is that to give up a medical school position many people would covet, but today I am fulfilling my vision for myself and for the kids who benefit from my books, and I couldn’t be happier!
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