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Talking careers with your younger children

Jen Klein is a New England-based technical writer and mother of three. When she isn't asking her kids to stop bickering, "caramelizing" the dinner or actively ignoring the dust bunnies under the couch, she enjoys knitting, gardening, pho...

Fireman, princess, construction worker, ballerina

“What do you want to be when you grow up?” It’s a ubiquitous question. And it’s the way we start, at a very early age, to introduce our children to the idea of work. The question is not a serious one when the children are young -- the responses are as much for our entertainment as anything else -- but they are a starting off point for a childhood-long introduction to careers, jobs -- and the education to get one there.

Kids and careers

School and education and how they lead to jobs and careers is a lifelong discussion, and one that starts early. We may not do it consciously at first, but we do begin the conversation about how we life the lives we live -- and the role of jobs in that -- the first time we tell our infant child, "Daddy is going to work! Wave bye !" as a parent heads out the door to work. A little thought about what we are communicating to our children may help clarify what we teach and how we teach it -- for ourselves as well as our children.

Daydreams and starry eyes

What did you want to be when you were little? A dancer? A baseball player? A policeman? A fairy? All of those choices are perfectly valid choices in early childhood. Don't burst that bubble!

The idea that one can do what one truly loves as a career is actually something worth holding on to! The answer to the question might change, but encourage the daydreams and the starry eyes. Let your kids associate working with joy and happiness.

Basic concept of work

Kids see one or both parents going off to work at an early age. Although they may be a couple decades away from understanding actuarial tables, they can understand that people do jobs in exchange for money, and money is what pays for their home and their food -- and their toys.

Questions may come up from time to time about how Dad got his job, or how Mom chose her career, and was there special school for it? The answers to all these questions in simple, age appropriate terms are what start to round out the basic concept of work and the part if plays in life as a whole.

Too early for reality

It's too early, though, for reality. You can't hold your child do a "career" he claims as a toddler! Work and careers for your child's own life at this point are hypothetical -- becoming a chocolate chip maker sounds pretty tasty, but it's far too early to start talking specifics about what it will take to get into culinary school.

Reality and in some cases practicality will work their way into the career conversation soon enough. Let your child daydream about a future career with all the world open to them.

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