Having “The Other Talk” With Your Teen

(about planning for their future)

It’s that time of year again. When young students are asked to start thinking about their future.  There are so many questions they may be asking themselves. Questions like:

  • What do I want to do when I graduate high school?
  • Do I think trade school or college is best for me?
  • Which school is best for me and how do I find it?
  • What are the costs of my decision?

These are the typical questions which begin conversations of self-discovery.  Students mostly turn to their parents or school counselors for help finding answers. Some teens know exactly what they want to do. Some are still searching for their interests. Some have thought about it for years. Some haven’t really given it much thought at all. But most, have had very little practical experience with the adult choices of life. And, although they may be eager to get started, they probably could use a little guidance on organizing their thoughts on what to consider.

I like to believe that all parents want their children to succeed in life. The difficult part is guiding them to define their version of success.  Some may want to go to college and explore a their options while earning a degree in general studies. Other’s may know exactly which trade school they’d like to begin. But not many of them understand the stifling impact which debt can have on their life. With that in mind, starting conversations with a different line of questions may help with this process. Below are questions which they can ask themselves to help determine what really interest them.

  1. Do I enjoy working with my hands?
  2. Do I like building relationships with people?
  3. Do I think I would prefer working indoors or out? Always in the same location, or at varying locations?
  4. Do I think that I may wish to own my own business one day?
  5. Why do I want to go to college or into the trades?
  6. For whose future am I working so hard? Am I trying to fulfill what I believe my parents want of me?
  7. What are the pros and cons of college versus an apprenticeship?
  8. Whose job is it to pay for college, and for how long?
  9. What is the average college debt and how would that impact my life after college?
  10. What schools fit within my goals? How does their program rank in comparison with other schools offering the same degree?
  11. What are the pros and cons of community colleges?
  12. What are realistic expectations for income and living expenses during, and after completion of, my studies?

These are big questions with complicated answers. Yet their impact may last a lifetime. Indeed, helping your child organize and plan their future will be a major step in their growth towards independence and success. I recommend starting these discussions early in high school. Waiting till college discussions are underway may seem less like guidance, and more like an attempt to push away from already formed expectations. Discussing plans early, and often, doesn’t mean they can’t be changed. Indeed, it gives them more flexibility as new information is explored and expectations change.

Having a discussion with your student about the 12 questions above is a great place to start. It will begin the discussion and let them consider the different choices for their vocational education; without getting too far in the details. Here are a couple more resources to consider:

https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/316320 Trade School vs. College: Which Is Right for You? (Infographic)


The next few articles will go deeper into these questions. We’ll do an analysis of the short, and long-term, financial impact of each choice. We’ll also look at the next steps and provide some tools to get started. But for now, the next step is just to have a conversation and write down some thoughts. I recommend asking the student to keep a notebook dedicated for this process.

I’m always looking for feedback. Please don’t hesitate to respond with additional thoughts, concerns, questions, or suggestions regarding this topic

As always, thanks for reading.
And remember to take the next step…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *