Navigating Tough Conversations With Your Child About Their Future

Raising kids is filled with tense moments and conflict. Whether it’s battling them about their screen time or bringing dishes next to their bed to the sink, there is no shortage of topics to fight about. But some are more important than others. 

Every kid needs help to prepare for adult life—even if they’re sending messages to you that they want to figure it all out on their own. A lot goes into that preparation, and the chief among them are the decisions regarding college and career. Chances are, they aren’t coming to you regularly for advice, but they are ready to take notes and soak up your pearls of wisdom. In fact, they might be telling you the exact opposite: “Leave me alone; I know what I’m doing and what needs to be done.”

But you and I both know the stakes are too high to take them at their word. 

Or perhaps, on the flip side, you might have a kid who completely shuts down when the topic arises. Like a turtle, they shrink at the mention of college visits, internships, or future plans. 

Regardless of their personality and default mode, if you’re a parent like me, you also carry your own sense of anxiety and apprehension about their future. Your fates are intertwined in many senses. 

So, if you find yourself putting off some of these difficult conversations about the future, or maybe you’d admit it hasn’t gone well in the past and now you’re feeling stuck in a loop of tension, then settle in for our battle-proven guidance to improve your communication with your kids. We’ve worked with parents and young adults for over two decades and learned from countless mistakes and data points. 

Foundationally, what your kid needs from you in order to have productive conversations that yield clarity is PSYCHOLOGICAL SAFETY. The concept, originally coined by Harvard’s Amy Edmondson, has three crucial components, best understood through the eye of the beholder:

  1. With this person or people, it’s okay to be myself. That means I can freely express my thoughts and feelings without worrying about being shamed or criticized. 
  2. It’s okay to make mistakes. I can ask questions, share ideas, and do things without fear of punishment or humiliation. 
  3. People here have my back. No matter what happens, I will continue to be supported. 

When psychological safety is created and sustained, the research shows that people can be more creative, make better decisions, and learn more quickly. For your kid, it means they can ask questions, explore options, imagine possibilities, and build more courage to take risks. 

Fundamentally, the most effective way to build psychological safety with your kid is to recall and tell them your personal stories of your own self-discovery journey. Specifically, tell them stories about the moments when you consciously decided to blaze your own path rather than abide by the pressures and expectations other people had for you. Talk about your mistakes and how you handled them, making it normal and expected that they will make mistakes, too. Reassure them of your support regardless of outcomes, how little you care about the specifics of what they choose to do, and how much you care about their overall well-being. 

Psychological safety is the foundation every parent must focus on building. Without it, your kid will feel anxious to talk to you about their discernment process. They won’t trust their own voice, either, and hesitate to take risks. They’ll feel less confident expressing their ideas and sharing their feelings. You’ll make it harder for them to consciously commit to the best opportunities available to them.

Stay tuned for more actionable tips to improve your communication with your kids about their future. 


Did you know we post new weekly YouTube episodes on essential tips and skills every parent needs to guide their kids to launch confidently into adulthood? Click here to subscribe 

Get the Critical Foundations Book



Do you know?

For years we’ve been studying what a young person needs in order to transition into a healthy, thriving adulthood.  

They're uncommon sense ideas, really.

Download this checklist and use it with your students (or kids).

50% Complete