Children aged 10 to 14 often have no idea where they are headed. While their futures do not need to be fully planned, identifying dreams and setting goals can often give your student a focus that allows them to take ownership, even at a young age, in their future.
The Difference Between a Dream and a Goal
Middle School aged children are often past their “I want to be an astronaut” or “I want to grow up to be a ballerina” stage, but that doesn’t mean their dreams are any less important. Unfortunately, by this age, most kids no longer see their dream occupations as achievable; they begin to lose confidence that they can achieve anything they set their minds to. The good news is, that kids this age truly have the world at their fingertips, they just need an idea of how to get there. I have told my daughter over and over again: the difference between a dream and a goal is an action plan. From as young as 6 years old, my daughter has wanted to work for NASA as an astronomer, a lofty goal for someone so young. Now, at 12 years old, her dream remains the same, and I can say she is making a path towards achieving this goal, but how did I keep her adventurous spirit alive; how did I keep her believing in herself? The answer: A vision board.
Researching Their Future
The first task I assigned my daughter and now my students, is to research the occupations they are most interested in. Often, kids will start this step with dreams of the NFL, NBA, or exciting singing or movie careers. While these aspirations are great, I ask them to imagine what might they do if those paths were unavailable to them. What else might they enjoy, even love doing every single day? It is important not to squash the dreams that may not be secure, or the ones that require luck to achieve, but setting more realistic goals can help them to think outside of their extracurricular interests, and reflect on what type of career could fulfill and sustain them.
Once your child has identified 1 or more interesting occupations, I use a worksheet that I found through Clarion University in Western Pennsylvania: https://www.clarion.edu/academics/career-services/plan-and-manage-your-career/choosing-a-major-or-career/worksheet-occupations.PDF This worksheet asks important questions that get your child thinking, and researching the steps required to make an effective career decision. They will need to use the internet to establish what the job description is, responsibilities, requirements, pay, and even job outlook and growth (using the US Bureau of Labor Statistics). Often, this research can cause some real reflection on the lifestyle they want in the future and if their selected career fits their vision.
Creating a Vision Board
The final step in the process is to have your child create a physical representation of their dreams. I use large blank canvases from the craft store. My students paint them, add ribbon, glitter, shells, stickers, anything they can find to make it representative of them and what they like. Once the canvas is personalized, they are asked to include visual representations of the most essential steps they need to take to achieve their dream job: The educational institution or training facility they will need to attend to become qualified for a position in their chosen field, pictures or artist renderings of what they imagine their living situation will be while preparing for their career, pictures of family and pets, visual representations of the values they will need to have a strong hold of as they pursue their dreams, and even possessions they would like to own or use as they reach for the stars. The more they add that MATTERS to them, the more motivational the board becomes!
Keeping Their Eyes on the Prize
Once their vision board is complete, discuss it as a family, have your child explain what each image, color, decoration means. Watching them excitedly explain their future is super rewarding and it can also be an important bonding moment. Finally, pick a place that is important to your child, and let them hang it. I often suggest their bedroom, somewhere they might see it upon waking in the morning, as a means of inspiration, and a reminder that when things get tough, it is all for a reason.
It is NEVER too early to prepare your child for their future. Helping your student to take ownership in that future is an important step in helping them become invested in it. The world is, quite literally, their oyster!