Career Choices: Parental Pressure And Mental Health Of Children

By Wasim Kakroo

CHOOSING a career path is an essential part of a student's life and decision of immense importance. The pressure of career building at a young age, however, is slightly more than what a young mind can handle.

In today's world, changing career landscapes may have provided children with a plethora of new choices, but they have also been a source of distress in their lives.

The process of deciding on a career path is frequently begun at an early age, when students are still unsure of their own interests.

While some children's career paths are pre-determined by their parents, others struggle to discover the proper path, putting them under a lot of stress.

What impact does a parent's influence have on their children's careers?

When it comes to career advice for teenagers, there are three types of parents who show three different types of responses.

1. There are some parents who are actively involved in their children's career choices. They are passionate about encouraging their children to explore various career interests, they provide emotional and verbal support to their child for his/her career goals, and they do everything possible to assist their children succeed in their chosen field.

2. Another type is of parents who are non-supportive and don't know what they can do to help their child help in career choices.

3. The most challenging condition for a child however is, when one or both of their parents is/are negatively involved. These parents force their children towards career choices of their own choosing, and if the child and the parent have opposite opinions, they may criticize the child's choices and impede their progress in their chosen direction. This may result in anxiety and resentment in the child’s mind, as well as apprehension that they may not be able to pursue the career that they truly desire.

Hundreds of students make poor career choices as a result of parental pressure to pursue careers that they believe are vital for them to succeed in life.

How does the pressure of building a career influence students' mental health?

The entire process of building a career from a young age has the following negative effects on young minds:

1. The fact that grades have such a strong influence on the career path students can or cannot pursue puts pressure on them to do well. As a result, the emphasis is on getting good grades (which unfortunately means 500/500) rather than learning.

2. When students do not perform well on tests, they are overcome with sentiments of despair and pessimism.

3. Furthermore, even if students are allowed to pursue their selected fields, sometimes during the course, they discover that they are not in sync with their interests and ability. They feel caught, but owing to parental or societal pressure, they are unable to express their feelings, which has a negative impact on their minds.

4. Even if students achieve their career dreams, the constant pressure they face throughout their academic journey drives them to the brink of depression, and they are sometimes unable to appreciate the results of their achievements.

5. Prematurely informing students about the necessity of career development at a young age frequently instils a fear of the future in them. Even if they are performing well, feelings of uneasiness and self-doubt are constantly present.

6. Moreover, the pressure to do well throughout the academic journey in order to create a firm foundation for a successful career causes anxiety in students, which can lead to eating disorders, depression, and even suicide in certain circumstances.

What factors parents should consider in order to help their children in career selection?

In the process of choosing a career, there are a few criteria that are really important. It is critical for parents to comprehend and consider these factors while deciding on a career path. Because parents play such a vital part in their children's growth, there are several significant factors that a parent should examine before making a final decision. The following factors determine the importance of a parent's role in a child's development:

1. Aptitude: Aptitude is a reflection of a child's personality, strengths, and weaknesses. As a result, a well-designed aptitude test can reveal a lot of information about a student, that can help in making an informed career choice.

2. Interest: It's difficult to spend your entire life working in a field that doesn’t interest you. Hence, when narrowing down career choices, parents should consider their child's interests.

3. Course Availability: Courses leading to a desired career should be freely accessible physically and should not place a burden on the student.

4. A well informed decision: A child can get easily misled by social pressure into choosing a career that the majority of his/her peers is choosing rather than the one that is best for him or her. Even parents can be drawn to a popular career choice, which can have a negative impact on a student's performance. Thus, a parent must be aware of all career options and select the ones that are ideal for their child.

5. Scope in the career: Career scope describes the numerous fields and professions that can be pursued after completing a specific course. The greater the scope, the more likely it is that the child will find a job that best suits their interests.

6. Salary: Income that a particular career can provide you is again one of the important factors (even if not the most important factor) to consider while looking for career choices. Nobody enjoys working for a pittance. The salary should be in line with the child's aspirations and should help a child to live a happy and comfortable life.

I have compiled a list of Do’s and Don'ts to help parents understand their role in the selection of their child’s career options. In order to understand the role of parents in the lives of their children, they must consider the following:

Do’s:

1. Assess your child's abilities, strengths, and weaknesses.

2. Be empathetic and receptive to your children's viewpoints.

3. Assist your child in finding his or her own interests.

4. Encourage your child to pursue his or her interest.

5. Inform your child about all facets of the career.

6. Help the child grasp the nature of work-life in the chosen career by associating with professionals in the sector pertaining to that career option.

7. Prevent your child from succumbing to peer pressure and herd mentality.

8. Gain your child's trust and encourage them to talk to you about their concerns.

9. Focus on making your child socially and emotionally competent from an early age so that they can overcome various problems and hurdles that life may throw at them during times of stress such as when they have to choose a career option.

10. When faced with a plethora of career options, children often feel helpless. Anxiety might arise from the pressure of having to make a decision that will affect the rest of their lives. It is always better to seek professional help from a registered career counselor. Career counselors administer assessment tests on students to determine their interests, talents, values, and personality traits, allowing them to make an informed career decision. The test findings can be used by career counselors to further guide a student for their career goals and direction.

Don'ts:

1. Rather than dictating a child's career decision, help them toward making an informed one.

2. Don't put unrealistic expectations on the child.

3. When interacting with children, don't be impatient.

4. The scope of any career varies throughout time; do not try to impose ideas or viewpoints that were prevalent during your days.

5. Do not lead the child astray by encouraging him or her to pursue a career of your liking.

6. Do not answer a child’s question if you are unsure about it. In such a situation, it is always better to take time, do research or seek professional help from a career counselor.

7. Do not allow other people (friends, extended family, or relatives) to influence your child in the career selection process.

The way forward:

The role of parents in helping to choose a career for their child is critical. When children experience a lack of guidance regarding their career, their stress levels skyrocket. Children have a strong desire to express themselves, and when parents are unable to understand this desire, the gap between parent and child widens. The key to resolving this issue is to provide your children with an environment that encourages them to express themselves more clearly and to listen with patience. Although the child may be mistaken about career choices, it is your obligation as a parent to reason with them rather than becoming angry at them. Children are naturally impulsive. Keep track of your child's shifting interests and suggest career possibilities that are a good fit for them. Thus, it's critical for you to understand your position as a parent in your child's career development.

Demotivating a child about their career choices can have a detrimental effect on a child's mental health, so rather than dismissing all of the child's ideas, you can work together to acquire information about the career choice and then assist the child in determining whether it is appropriate for them or not. Such handling is also the need of the hour.

With the crippling lockdown effect still shadowing the body language of children in Kashmir, the need is to heed to their calls and choices. And this is where the compassion comes into play. Playing naysayer or moralist can dampen their confidence. Also, there aren't many career choices available to students in Kashmir. But even then, many young Kashmiris are showing promise in new creative ventures. But sadly, most of these students are being discouraged from pursuing their "passion projects" for secure profession. It's in this trap that children of Kashmir are forced to pursue some unpopular careers which in the long run do no good to them.


  • The author is a licensed clinical psychologist (alumni of Govt. Medical College Srinagar). 

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