Not long ago, the parents of a Dipti (name changed to maintain confidentiality) visited me at my office to talk about their child’s future. They said Dipti is facing a problem that children her age are not facing. It was interesting to hear this line as it took me a few seconds to ponder upon what the parents meant. They had not yet brought their child with them when they visited my center. While I waited for the parents to tell me more, the mother spoke up and said that their child, studying in the 9th grade, is not able to make a career decision. She is confused and won’t really say what she wants to do in her life.
After this, the father stepped in as well and spoke about a recent incident that happened the previous week. It seems the parents sat with their daughter to have a heart-to-heart conversation about what her interests are but Dipti didn’t speak much. She just kept to herself and was silent on most questions. This got the parents worried as they started to think the issue was far more serious. This is when they felt that their child needed career counseling.
So, I set up an appointment with the parents for the following week to bring their child with them. When the day arrived, I had a conversation with Dipti for the first time. She seemed like everything was normal around her, there were no apprehensions or hesitations to speak her mind. I asked her about her favorite subjects in school and her hobbies, including her relationship with her friends. After about half an hour I started to ask questions specific to her relationship with her parents. By then the child was comfortable enough to have a friendly and honest discussion with me without hesitation.
I asked her simple questions about who she likes more, which parent is the most comfortable to talk to, and other relevant questions. This was a confidential discussion and it gave me time to figure out her problem. By the end of our conversation, I had booked another appointment separately with the parents. I had identified the problem but one that was not of the child but of the parents. Turns out it was the parents who needed counseling.
Wherein Lies The Real Problem?
When I met the parents at the following appointment, I had a deeper conversation with them. Without revealing what Dipti had confided in me, I asked the parents a few questions and then also counseled them on the real problem.
The child had grown up in a competitive environment where she was always compared to her elder sister. Her grades, her manner of speaking, her behavior, and so on. The elder sister was intelligent and was completing post-graduation in IT. The parents had already decided what was best for their daughters to study and pursue in terms of a career. The elder daughter picked a career path that made her parents proud and now it was the younger daughter’s chance to make it happen as well.
However, Dipti never revealed to them that she was not interested in becoming a doctor as her parents had wished. Most often, she would hear her parents speak to relatives about how they wanted her to take up MBBS. Many times, she overheard her parents discussing with friends how careers like MBBS, law, and Banking were better than any other fields. The younger daughter had developed a sense of hidden anxiety especially when she would approach the exam date results. Her parents always told her that no matter what, the family name should not be affected. This impacted Dipti to a degree that the parents could not notice as it was simply a parenting method that their parents had used as well.
As Dipti grew through grades 6 to 9, she became more and more aware of what was expected of her. Scoring distinctions in school and college, and choosing a career that her parents wanted. Which is why she was extremely confused when her parents asked her what she wanted to do. She was not sure of the response that was expected of her.
This is when I also got to know from the parents that they expected her to choose between Banking, Law, or MBBS. I had identified the pulse of the problem and it was time for me to counsel the parents and mentor the child.
The Seeds We Sow
Dipti had developed the belief that it was no longer her wish but her parent’s wishes that she had to fulfill. Although coming from a point of love and responsibility, her parents desired the best for her. This also meant that a good, promising career would make her financially independent. While the intention was noble, the approach needed to be addressed.
Some parents may often believe that they are supporting
their child without determining whether their child feels
supported or crushed under pressure.
Dipti needed career mentoring which I provided as a career mentoring coach. On the other hand, I had to counsel the parents and understand their underlying issues. They came from a time when survival was the main concern and professions like Engineering, being a doctor, IT, or working in a bank provided the stability one needed to survive and provide for the family. They wanted their daughters to live a comfortable life and choosing the right career was part of this move.
However, in helping the parents understand the current circumstances of Dipti, I was able to navigate through their issues as parents.
By the end of our sessions, Dipti was confident of what she wanted to become. She always fancied experimenting with different types of makeup and accessories. She wanted to become a makeup artist and a fashion stylist. It was where her interests lay and she already had something to show for it on her Instagram and Pinterest posts.
While her parents were surprised and entirely unaware of her career interest until now, they grew to become more accepting of her decision. In the long run, Dipti’s parents supported her decision every step of the way. They helped her choose among the best universities to go to after completing her 10th board exams. They also went along with her when she wanted to attend makeup artist workshops.
How Parents Can Create A Safe Environment For Their Child
Firstly, it is important to identify sudden behavioral changes in your child. What was once interesting to them, what they were truly passionate about does not capture their interest. Try to assess their situation and see if there seems to be an underlying issue to it. There are chances that the child simply lost interest or it could be that a more negative circumstance is affecting them.
Make sure to create an environment at home where your child feels safe and comfortable to discuss their concerns. Encouraging open conversations, not just communication but conversations that can help them confide in you as a parent. Seek professional help if they seem to experience adverse emotional or behavioral changes.
Career Mentoring in India is what most children need, and parents need counseling. This is where I play a significant role. Only problems need counseling and confusion or a lack of direction needs mentoring.
As we progress in our lives, may we understand the influential role a mentor has upon us.