A mom in a Facebook group posted about her son who just graduated from college and didn’t get his dream job. Mom was feeling sad for him, worried about his disappointment and plummeting sense of self-worth.
He had worked hard and followed the rules, and now feels like a failure. The job he was offered did not meet the expectations of the grand adventure he had planned. She attempted to get him out of his funk by explaining the realities of life, and offering up what was good in his life. He wasn’t buying any of it.
My first thoughts are for parents. Don’t jump into the pity pit with your child! That sends a message that it’s really as awful as he thinks it is. What can you do?
Empathize and acknowledge - that’s a good start. He doesn’t need a lecture about life. He needs a chance to vent and whine (not indefinitely), so that he can start to accept where he is today.
“I see how disappointed you are. It’s understandable after all the hard work you did.” Stop there. Let it sit. He’ll either keep talking or he won’t. Then you can ask, “What do you need from me? A hug, to listen more, or to leave you alone?”
Disappointment happens. You can’t prevent it; however, you can help your kids work through it and adjust to their new reality more quickly. Just be there. Don’t try to fix it and make the sadness disappear. Also keep in mind that right now this young man has too much time on his hands for wallowing. Once his ‘’run-of-the-mill’ job begins, he’ll be plenty busy.
Now about the kids… This won't make anyone feel better, but is a perspective I hope parents will start passing on to younger children. Our generation has told kids to find their passion and go for their dreams. The kids took that to mean not to settle for anything less, so of course they are disappointed. I found my dream work in my 50s and it has nothing to do with my major in French. I really hope they find theirs sooner! Everyone deserves the chance to do satisfying and meaningful work… you know, the work that doesn’t feel like work.
Yet the reality is that, no matter how much effort and preparation, the dream job isn’t sitting there waiting for them to claim it. It’s more the norm to get out of college, find a job and pay the bills. "Finding your bliss' tends to comes later.
What our kids need to know, really need to know, is that all work, even when it's not ideal, is honest work; all work is valuable, if not always personally meaningful; and all work has the potential to be a stepping stone to the next, closer-to-their-dream job.
The most productive mindset is to give their best to whatever work they do have. They will be evaluated on giving their all wherever they are. Attitude counts, before and after they get the dream job.
Fern Weis is a certified life coach who learned that caring and good intentions are not enough in parenting. In fact, they are often the problem! Fern supports parents of teens and young adults who are going through difficult situations, including addiction recovery. She helps parents release guilt, end enabling and confidently prepare their children to thrive through life's challenges. Her articles are featured in Thrive Global, Medium, Motherly, The Teen Mentor, and Bergen County Moms.