Every month, Nicky Forster will be answering questions sent in by our readers. Email yours to email@example.com.
Elango de Silva, from Warlingham, asks Nicky for teenage career guidance:
"My son is sixteen and will finish school next year. At the moment, he is really struggling to work out what he should do next. He enjoys studying, but there isn't one particular subject, either academic or vocational, that he feels strongly about. He's now worrying so much about making the wrong choice that he doesn't want to think about it at all. How can I help him decide what he wants to do?"
Knowing what you DON'T want in life, but not what you DO want is a common problem for many grown-ups, let alone for teens. At 16 years old, even though legally not an adult, your son has his own mind and part of growing up is making decisions like these.
Encourage him to spend time thinking about the things that bring him happiness – things that he likes to do both in his spare time and in his education – and look for possible links between the two.
A mind map is a good way to do this
Get him to start by writing ‘ME’ or ‘MY PLAN/GOAL’ in the middle of a plain piece of paper, and then branch out with things that inspire or interest him. For example: working outdoors, a job using his hands, leading a team, or working with computers. These can then be branched out in more detail, and there will be crossovers between the different areas.
As he still has some time available, I would encourage him to do this several times. He will probably find a recurring theme, which will help to create clarity over a possible apprenticeship or a path of further education.
Take on the challenge
Ultimately, even though you don’t want to increase his anxiety by pressurising him into making a decision, part of life is taking on these challenges. Dealing with the stresses they create and building resilience against them makes us better able to cope with them when they re-occur.
If he still finds himself stuck, remind him that indecision by overthinking or procrastination is usually worse than making a wrong choice: sometimes you just have to trust your instincts and jump headfirst into something new. And no decision is irreversible. He may set off on a particular path, only to change his mind along the way and decide that he needs to veer off towards a different destination. This is absolutely fine: we can change our goals at any point in time.
Be patient while encouraging him to begin the process. You can gently steer him in the right direction, but he needs to work out for himself what is right for him.
Nicky Forster had a professional football career spanning over 20 years, playing a total of 721 professional games and scoring 221 goals for eight teams. He represented England at U21 level, playing alongside David Beckham and Phil Neville, and also managed Brentford FC. He now spends his time as a keynote/motivational speaker, and at The Spot Wellness Centre in Godstone.