Parenting teenagers - career and future decisions

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How to help your teens make good decisions about their future. . From youth expert Sarah Newton


Help!My Teenager will not make any decisions about his future.He lies on the sofa all day, wont even discuss his future and just expects us to provide for him foreverUnpublished chapter from Sarahs Bestselling book Help! My Teenager is an Alien the everyday situation guide for parents. Buy the

Sarah Newton

book now at Amazon. Join the Free Help! My Teenager is an Alien network.

Buy Help! My Teenager is an Alien now on Amazon. Join the FREE on-line community Sarah Newton Leading Teen and Parent Coach


My Teenager will not make any decisions about his future.He lies on the sofa all day, wont even discuss his future and just expects us to provide for him forever.

During this chapter we will follow Ruth and David as they attempt to get their layabout son Julian off the sofa and to take some responsibility for his life.

Parents can become very frustrated when they find that all the hard work they have put into their teenager for sixteen years is wasted when he refuses to even think about his future. Instead, he spends all day on the sofa expecting to be waited upon hand and foot.

All is not lost! I have worked with many teenagers and their parents in similar situations. They can be turned round.

We ought not to forget that this can also be an extremely challenging time for the teenagers and though they may not appear to be bothered, believe me they are. Attempting to decide, at sixteen, what you want to do with the rest of your life is a daunting and frightening prospect, particularly nowadays when the options are far greater and the job for life ethos no longer stands. Teenagers nowadays know they are going into a different career market from the one which existed for earlier generations. Life is more competitive, only the best really get a chance and many jobs are no longer safe or secure. Some, like Julian, totally switch off, hoping the whole thing will go away.

So are you ready to meet Julian and see what we did?

Julian lives with his parents, David and Ruth, in a nice suburb in Surrey. He goes to a public school and is about to sit his exams. He is the kind of lad that will do well. He does just enough to enable him to get through but persuading him to do any more has been a losing battle. He is a gifted child, well liked and fairly good at most sports. Just an everyday sort of boy really. By the time David and Ruth came to me they had both given up on his school work and since he only had four weeks until his exams I thought our time could be spent more constructively in other areas. Julian had a good relationship with his parents and really he had been no trouble at all. That was until they started Buy Help! My Teenager is an Alien now on Amazon. Join the FREE on-line community Sarah Newton Leading Teen and Parent Coach


asking him about his future - it was a no-go zone. Any polite mention of college, career or what will you do when you leave school? was met with a brick wall of silence. This would be followed by isolation at a play-station marathon or by sitting in front of the TV for hours watching war films. David and Ruth were getting more and more frustrated with the situation. The more they pushed the more he resisted. Stale-mate had been reached!

I see this kind of situation so often in a family, where the parents are so desperate for their child to make a decision about their future, that every single minute they get alone with him, they begin to question him about it. While this is understandable and is the action of very caring parents, it can make the teenager feel trapped and to not want to be with his parents. This had been going on for so long now and the more Julian refused to talk about it the more they asked, it was a vicious circle that was created out of desperation. Ruth and David were refusing to let the matter go. In situations like this you need to break the circle. It is obvious that a sixteen-year-old is unlikely to do this because of lack of experience and judgment. It is up to the parents to swallow their pride a little and do something different. In this case what Ruth and David needed to do was to take the pressure off themselves and to put the choice onto Julian, at the same time setting very clear guidelines about what was and was not acceptable.

I asked Ruth and David what their worst fear was in this situation. They looked at each other and almost said in unison That he becomes a no-good layabout and expects us to pay his way for the rest of his life. Will you do that, will you pay his way? I said. A resounding No came from both of them. So your worst fear is that he will expect you to pay his way and you are not going to do this. What is it that you are worried about? They both stared at me in shock. I expect that this is something they had never thought about before, the fact they did indeed have a choice. They certainly could not force Julian to choose a career, but they could set down guidelines of what they would and would not do. We just dont want him to waste his life David said. Isnt that his choice? I remarked There is after all so much you can do and then it gets to a point where it is over to him. He has to be the one to make the choices. David looked at me despondently and agreed it was Julians choice, he had to be the one to make it. It doesnt mean we cannot help him along the way though. I smiled, sensing that David and Ruth were losing all hope. What we need to do is to spend the time between now and when Julian finishes his exams, to make a plan. Buy Help! My Teenager is an Alien now on Amazon. Join the FREE on-line community Sarah Newton Leading Teen and Parent Coach


It can be soul destroying if, having spent sixteen years of your life preparing your child for the moment he leaves school, you then find that he is not as enthusiastic about his new-found independence as you hoped. What some parents can do, out of frustration, is to force their child to make decisions about the future and to make them too soon. These decisions are never easy and take time. Your teenager may need to come to his own conclusions and if you push him it will not speed up the process. He may still be deciding what he wants to do with his life when he is forty! It is his choice and what you have to do is to take the pressure off him early on. Take the pressure off yourself as a parent at the same time and put the choice back on to him. You can then decide what new agreements you may need to establish that take into account that your child is nearly an adult. Not making a decision about the future now is one thing, sponging off you for the next four years is another!

I gave Ruth and David two pieces of homework. The first was to make a list of the guidelines they wanted to implement once Julian left school. The second was to simply lay off Julian and not ask him any more questions about his future. He was, after all, studying for his exams and this was a stressful time for him. I asked them to go home and say to him Julian, we know we have been nagging you about your future and we apologise, we know the choice is yours and we trust you to make the right one. They were rather sceptical but I told them it was crucial for them to do this if they ever wanted him to make a decision. They went home and told him. This was met with a grunt, a strange look and a retreat to the bedroom.

It is important during this testing time that you keep your relationship intact and on a steady footing. You will need this for later on when you start talking about guidelines. If every time your teenager talks to you, all you do is mention the future and college, then he will keep out of your way and just stop all communication. Who wants to be nagged at all the time? If your teenager thinks that you are taking full responsibibility for his future planning then why on earth should he himself have to think about it. Sometimes, backing off and giving your teenager some space can be the most constructive way to move forward.

Ruth and David found this extremely hard and had to bite their lips on many occasions, wanting so desperately to get him to make a decision. I cannot even begin to tell you how many distraught phone calls we had. However Buy Help! My Teenager is an Alien now on Amazon. Join the FREE on-line community Sarah Newton Leading Teen and Parent Coach


they were true to their word and they left him alone not asking him anything about his future. After a few weeks the atmosphere in the house began to change as Ruth and David left him alone more and more. Julian became less obstinate and difficult, they started laughing more together and he would even, on some occasions, switch off the play-station and watch TV with them. Ruth and David still had to hold their tongues a lot of the time but they did not crack once. They stuck to their word, giving a very powerful message to Julian. One, that he could trust them and when they said something they meant it and two, this was his life and he alone was truly responsible for it.

When they came back to see me they had their guidelines with them. It had taken them all of four weeks to prepare them with lots of heated discussions. They now had a firm list that they both agreed on.

This is their list.

1. We are prepared to support Julian in any way we can if he wants to go to college, however we want to know that the college course he picks will fit into his future plans. 2. If Julian is not going to college then after a six-week gap we expect that he is contributing to the household and has a job. 3. If Julian has a job then other than food and lodgings we will no longer fund him. 4. If Julian does not go on to further education then we expect that he will no longer be living at home after the age of twenty. 5. If Julian goes to college that is out of the area then we will, as previously agreed, buy the car but we will not fund the running of it. 6. We will support Julian in any way we can to get a job or get into college but he needs to ask us for what he wants.

When they showed me their list they looked very pleased with themselves and so they should, it was precise, to the point and very clear. It makes us feel as if we have some control over the situation now said Ruth. It became clear that doing this list it had helped them to let go and while they still wanted the best Buy Help! My Teenager is an Alien now on Amazon. Join the FREE on-line community Sarah Newton Leading Teen and Parent Coach


for Julian and were prepared to help him in any way possible, they felt that really the choice was his now and they were equipped for anything that would happen.

Most parents in the same situation as Ruth and David feel they have no choice or no control over it. It can feel as if you are walking on eggshells and the teenager is totally in control. This is absolutely not the case. You always have control and choice but the only thing you can control is yourself and the only thing you have choice over is your own decisions. There is some freedom that comes from realising that and knowing that you can take back the control.

The next step now was for Ruth and David to share these Guidelines with Julian. I asked when they wanted to do that and they agreed that they would wait for two weeks after the exams had finished and they would tell him then.

Julian Finished his exams, Ruth and David still stuck to their word by not nagging him about his future and everyone was happy. Two weeks passed and crunch day approached. I had asked Ruth and David not to make a big thing about approaching Julian with the guidelines and just have an adult conversation with him about it. They were very good at doing this and just said Julian now you are sixteen you have finished school, your exams are over and we need to revisit our commitment to you, can we have a conversation? After looking at them slightly odd then getting a panicked look in his face he agreed. Together Ruth and David went through the new guidelines with him explaining what each one meant and their reasons for picking them. Julian stayed very quiet throughout the whole process just looking as if his world had just fallen in. They made sure that he fully

understood everything they said and the conversation was ended. I think that Ruth and David were expecting at least some resistance or a alleluia moment where Julian suddenly realised the error of his ways and asked for their forgiveness. None of this happened of course and they had a long wait for Julian to have any breakthroughs.

Julian did not speak to them for about a week and appeared to go back to his despondent self that he had been before the exams. My advice to them was just to carry on as they had been doing. We did not know what Julian was trying to sort out in his head, we could only help him when he decided he Buy Help! My Teenager is an Alien now on Amazon. Join the FREE on-line community Sarah Newton Leading Teen and Parent Coach


wanted help. This continued for another three weeks and Julians six-weeks deadline loomed closer. Ruth and David began to panic and it looked very unlikely that Julian was going to make a decision. They were going to have to implement their guidelines.

Then one day while Ruth was cooking Julian came down and started to hang around in the kitchen, something he rarely ever did. He started talking about what she was cooking and the weather and it became very apparent that he wanted something. Can I help you at all? Ruth said It looks as if you want to ask me something Julian looked down at the floor and began talking Mum I really want to do something with my life but I just dont know where to start or what to do what shall I do? Bingo, we had lift-off!

Ruth and David held on a little while longer than they thought they should have. As parents we often step in before we need to, trying to solve things before giving the teenager enough time to come to his own conclusions. One of the most powerful tools we are taught in coaching is the power of silence. Giving someone extra time, more time than is comfortable, is a sure way to get a person to come to his own conclusions. Ruth and David left Julian alone far longer than they thought was right. It had taken many phone calls to assure them that they were doing the right thing. I have two sayings which are based on my years of dealing with teenagers. One is Expect breakthroughs to look like breakdowns. In my experience, whenever we have a breakthrough with a teenager it usually follows a breakdown of some sort. The...