Time and again, I’ve been asked by parents and grandparents how they can possibly get their teenage child or grandchild to study a field in college that will lead to a prosperous life. By prosperous, they mean how to help the child make a lot of money.

It starts when the teen says something like, “Mom, Dad, Grandma, Aunt, I really want to go into law enforcement, languages, music, art” (or whatever the student would really like to study in college).

Too often, the child’s desire is completely ignored unless the family imagines it could bring in big bucks. Then the parents and grandparents, and maybe neighbors, ministers, or extended family, work on the student until they agree to study business or medicine or computer science or some field that seems to promise a large income.

The challenge here is not money. It’s that the teen is given the message loud and clear they should ignore their own dreams and desires. When we do this to a child, we are telling them to listen to everyone outside of themselves and not to their inner voice. Further, when we act as if we are the authority for their life by telling them what to do with their future, we are again teaching them they should listen to everyone but themselves.

Lifelong Consequences

When a teen is manipulated into studying something other than what their heart desires, the likelihood of their staying in that field is slim. If they do stay where they make a lot of money but still long to be in the field of their dreams, chances are they will be unhappy. And it is this unhappiness that can lead to medicants such as alcohol, food, compulsive exercise, compulsive work, or any of the ways humans mask the pain of being disconnected from their own sense of self.

This disconnection from oneself—and therefore from one’s own feelings, thoughts, perceptions, values, dreams, and desires—fuels most of our problems in the world. The answer to these problems is to support the child in listening deeply to the voice of the Divine within.

What to Do Instead

Helping our children and grandchildren connect to their inner knowing, to their place of wisdom, is not as hard as it may seem. One of the easiest ways to help children and grandchildren connect to inner wholeness is by using active listening. Active listening means we reflect to the child what we heard them say.

When we are first learning to do this, we may need to repeat word for word what we heard the other say. As we become proficient with this skill, we can summarize what we heard and also reflect the feelings we heard. This kind of listening validates the entire child and gives them a felt sense that they are worthy of being listened to and that their ideas are important. In essence, the message given to the child is: You are valuable.

My hope for any parent or grandparent is to know how important it is to truly support all children’s dreams, visions, hopes, and true gifts from the time they are young. In doing this, we bless the world one child at a time. The child feels seen and heard with ideas worth considering.

When a child or teen is supported in connecting to their own inner wisdom, they can live from their authentic self, which means knowing what they feel, think, believe, and want. The greatest gift a parent or grandparent can give is to help children connect to this place of wisdom within.

About the Author

Rev. Suzanne Carter is a Unity minister and licensed professional counselor who lives in Denver, Colorado. Visit unitywholenesscenter.com to learn more.


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