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We have an 18-year-old son who recently graduated from high school and has no interest in higher education or vocational training and, when asked about his future plans, tells everyone he’s going to be in a band. He’s a talented musician, but we’re trying to be realistic and help him recognize how hard of a road he’s going to travel if he’s lucky enough to make a living at this. He accuses us of being unsupportive and then he dives deeper into his music. We want to get out of this tug-of-war about his future career and help him succeed. How can we support his plans even though we have no confidence his plans will work out?
Your role with your son is moving from managing to influencing. It’s easy to believe that we’re influencing, when, in reality, we’re actually trying to manage. Our kids can feel our anxiety for their futures and sometimes respond by pushing away to be more independent. Your son may be headed toward a life you would never choose, but he’s not asking you to choose it. He’s asking you to honor and respect him as an individual.
Whether or not his plans work out isn’t the biggest issue here. Your goal is to stay connected to him along the journey so he can benefit from your influence, experience, and support. He’ll need your love and support if he fails to make a career in music and he’ll also need it if he finds success.
If his goal is financial independence, then trust that he’ll take the necessary steps to accomplish this. If he’s hoping you’ll financially support him while he pursues his music career, then you have to decide if this is a good investment. Either way, it’s likely you’re expecting him to pay his own way in the future, so make it clear how long you’ll financially support him. And, when the time is up to stop sending him money, then hold that boundary so he can truly be financially independent. When he knows that he’s truly on his own financially, he will learn whether or not a career in music makes sense for him.
Here are some other ways you can support him even though you don’t agree with him:
- Encourage him to seek ongoing education. He may only associate education with a traditional school structure. Show him there are lots of educational possibilities around his areas of interest to help him be more prepared for life and encourage him to be a lifelong learner to improve the value he offers to others. There are also other life skills he can continue to learn more about, such as financial management and communication skills.
- Emphasize the need to work hard and have integrity. No matter what he does with his life, hard work will be required. The type of work we all do changes over time as we become more skilled or learn more about our preferences, but a strong work ethic is going to be a constant if he wants to succeed.
- Learn why this direction matters to him. Ask good questions and find out why he believes this is the right path for him. Don’t interrogate him or make him prove his point for your approval. Have genuine curiosity. He may learn more about his own motives and it might strengthen his resolve or cause him to change his mind. You can offer him a loving and supportive environment to explore his future plans.
- Give him your full emotional support. You withholding support and refusing to take an interest in his passion won’t inspire him to choose a different path. He’s old enough to make his decision and you can feel free to attend his performances, show an interest in what he’s doing, and point out his strengths. He’ll need all of the encouragement he can get, even if you don’t think it’s a good path for him. Remember, it’s not your path, so you’re free to just love him.
Like all parents, you want your son to succeed and he’ll need all the support he can get. It’s tough out there, no matter what you do for a career, so having the support of your family makes all the difference in the world.
Geoff will answer a new family and relationship question every Friday. You can email your question to him at [email protected]
If you or a loved one are struggling with the devastating impact of pornography issues, sexual betrayal, and relationship trauma, I have created a 6-part audio program to help married couples strengthen their recovery. You can purchase the 6-hour audio program here for a limited time at the reduced price of $29 – https://geoff-steurer.mykajabi.com/marriage-recovery
About the Author
Geoff Steurer is a licensed marriage and family therapist in St. George, UT. He is the owner of Alliant Counseling and Education (www.alliantcounseling.com) and the founding director of LifeStar of St. George, an outpatient treatment program for couples and individuals impacted by pornography and sexual addiction (www.lifestarstgeorge.com). He is the co-author of “Love You, Hate the Porn: Healing a Relationship Damaged by Virtual Infidelity”, available at Deseret Book, and the audio series “Strengthening Recovery Through Strengthening Marriage”, available at www.geoffsteurer.com. He also writes a weekly relationship column for the St. George News (www.stgnews.com). Geoff also hosts the Illuminate Podcast (https://soundcloud.com/geoff-steurer/sets/illuminate-podcast) and has produced programs and resources to help couples rebuild broken trust. He holds a bachelors degree from BYU in communications studies and a master’s degree in marriage and family therapy from Auburn University. He served a full-time mission to the Dominican Republic. He is married to Jody Young Steurer and they are the parents of four children.
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