Are You Supporting Your Child’s Passion? Steps to having a meaningful talk.


Young female wearing glasses using a mobile phone and laptop

Guidance from Dr. Renee Strom and Terri Doepker, MA, Bay College Instructors

Having a meaningful talk with your children about their passions is an important part about being a parent. We are the role models even if we might constantly question if our children even care what we think. Dr. Renee Strom, communications instructor at Bay College recalls an instance where her student’s passion and the parent’s plan didn’t mesh, “I had a student who felt a lot of pressure to go into the medical field. His parents were both doctors, and they expected that he, too, would follow in that path. This student absolutely dreaded any and all classes that were required of him for this degree path. He knew he liked helping people, but realized his calling was actually teaching.

This was a difficult conversation for him to broach with his parents because he did not want to disappoint them, but he did want to be honest about what he was feeling.” Are you struggling communicating with your child on their future? Here are some tips to think about when trying to be open minded and supportive of their passions:

  1. Be open.  Parents often tend to try and solve situations for their children, rather than communicating and exploring the child’s ideas. Terri Doepker, MA shared, “Demonstrate curiosity by inquiring about what brings out a child’s enthusiasm or persistent interest, ask them what could you do all day and not get bored?” Dr. Renee Strom added, “Creating and nurturing a supportive communication climate is key to kids feeling open to talk about their passions with parents.One simple way to do this is for both kids and parents to incorporate ‘I’ and ‘we’ language that signals the feelings discussed are their own and is often viewed as more inclusive. Conversely, working to avoiding the use of ‘you’ and ‘but’ statements is important because these words can be viewed as judgmental in nature.” If it's an idea you don't like, you could say, "Okay, let's talk about it."  Put yourself in their shoes and try to see where they are coming from. How do they feel? What do they want in life?
  2. Explore what their passions are. When your child is talking to you about their ideas and what they want to do, listen and express interest in what they are saying. “Try not to ambush them or attack their ideas. Use effective listening strategies like paraphrasing and repeating key ideas to demonstrate effective listening will be helpful in keeping the lines of communication open and clear in these potentially difficult discussions. It is important for parents not to engage in destructive listening habits. Examples of these types of destructive habits are Defensive Listening or feeling attacked by what the other is saying, and Ambushing, where someone listens for information to then attack the other with, and a third type is Insulated listening, which occurs when someone does not listen at all to what the other is saying. This can be problematic when parents have a specific career goal in mind, and will not listen to anything their child has to say about a different career choice” shared Dr. Renee Strom.
  3. Have reasonable expectations. Look at your child’s strengths, weaknesses, interests, and talents. Set your expectations based on the individual. Dr. Renee Strom shared, “Expectations are key here. Parents have expectations for what they want their child to be able to do after college (earn a living, be fulfilled). Sometimes these goals are mutually exclusive, but not always.  It is important for parents to lay out the pros and cons of any type of career, and part of this process is for both parents and kids to have input on what those pros and cons are.”
  4. Other options.  It’s important to know and understand there are other options out there and it’s okay for your child to explore them. Terri Doepker, MA shared, “Avoid locking them into thinking college is the only option.  Some people do much better with hands on learning rather than in school.  There are apprenticeships, certifications, advanced manufacturing and trade schools. It’s worth mentioning that trades garner higher incomes than some college majors especially when you factor in student loans”.

Renee Strom received her PhD in Communications in 2006 from Michigan State University. She currently teaches Interpersonal Communication, Mass Communication and Popular Culture, and Public Speaking at Bay College. She has previously taught classes in Communication Theories, Research Methods Listening, and 5-12 Teacher Preparation. Terri Doepker teaches courses in Sociology and Human Services.  She holds an MA from Arizona State University School of Social and Family Dynamics. Her graduate fieldwork involved intensive family intervention. Terri engages in continuing education for her Michigan Bachelors of Social Work License (LBSW).

It is important to have these meaning conversations with your children. If your child needs some guidance in choosing a degree or career path at Bay College, students can meet with an advisor to help facilitate the process. To make an appointment with an advisor, call 906-302-3000.

Written by Tracy VanDusen