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Help Your Child Identify Interests
< Career Exploration

Help Your Child Identify Interests

Parents can help their children identify and pursue interests as the first step in career exploration

How Can I Nurture My Child's Interests?
You can encourage your child to do things that reflect his or her interests. For example:

A child who likes animals could:
  • Join a 4-H club.
  • Volunteer at a local veterinary clinic or zoo.
  • Walk or care for a neighbor's dog.
A child who likes art could:
  • Design a personal website.
  • Make birthday or holiday cards for friends or relatives.
  • Create graphics for the school newsletter.
A child who likes to help people could:
  • Be a summer camp counselor.
  • Assist at a day care center.
  • Teach a younger child to read.
A child who likes to build or repair things could:
  • Build a radio or computer from a kit.
  • Take apart an old appliance and put it back together.
  • Design and build a birdhouse.
A child who likes sports could:
  • Play on a sports team.
  • Assist a coach.
  • Umpire or referee community games.
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How Can I Help My Child Identify Interests?
Research shows that people are more satisfied with their careers if they are based on interests and activities they enjoy. You can help your child identify his or her interests by talking about what he or she likes to do. Ask:
  • What is your favorite school subject?
  • What extracurricular activities do you enjoy the most?
  • What are your hobbies?
  • What do you like to do with friends?
  • What special skills do you think you have?
  • What have you done that you are most proud of?
  • What do you like to do in your free time?
  • What interests you the most?
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What About Formal Interest Assessments?
Many middle and high schools offer interest assessments for students. There are also numerous interest assessments available on the Internet. The school guidance counselor can help your child find a good assessment and interpret the results. Keep in mind:
  • Interest assessments are the first step in career exploration. They aren't meant to force your child into a particular career.
  • There are no right or wrong answers on an interest assessment.
  • Your child should take many different assessments, and you and your child can look for similarities across the results.
  • Your child's interests may change as he or she gets older. Your child can take an interest assessment each year to guide his or her career exploration.

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What If My Child Doesn't Seem to Have any Interests?
Help your child explore the world to find out what interests him or her.

  • Pay attention to:
    • the activities your child likes;
    • the books your child reads;
    • the television shows your child watches;
    • the websites your child visits; and
    • the way your child spends his or her free time.
Discuss what your child likes or dislikes about each activity.

  • Take your child to:
    • museums;
    • art galleries;
    • zoos;
    • musical and theatrical performances; and
    • community and sporting events.

  • Let your child try excurricular activities like:
    • art classes;
    • computer classes; and
    • a sports team.

  • Encourage your child to start a collection, and help him or her decide what will be in that collection.
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After Identifying Interests, What Next?
Now you need to help your child tie interests to possible careers. For example:
  • An interest in the outdoors could lead to careers ranging from gardening to oceanography.
  • An interest in helping people could lead to careers from teaching to medicine.
If your child has a list of possible careers from interest assessments, make sure he or she considers careers related to those on the list as well. For example, if computer programming is on the list, your child could also explore:
  • web development;
  • video game development;
  • network technology; and
  • computer support operations.

For More Information
For additional information on connecting interests with careers, try:
  • Your state's America's Career Resource Network office. See the ACRN Network page for contact information.
  • America's Career InfoNet.
  • U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Outlook Handbook (also available in book form at your local library).
  • Your local library.

  • It's About Time, Ohio's Career Development Program, Ohio Department of Education, Undated.
  • Help! A Family's Guide to High School and Beyond, Susan M. Quattrociocchi, Ph.D, 2001.
  • Starting the Conversation, A Career Exploration Guide for Parents and Children, Career Development Resources, Texas Workforce Commission, Ongoing.
  • WOIS/The Career Information System
  • The National Career Development Guidelines
  • Building Your Child's Future Together, American School Counselor Association, Undated.
  • Helping Children Discover Their Interests, Sally M. Reis, Associate Professor of Educational Psychology, University of Connecticut, 1997.