3 Ways to Support Your Teen to Dream Big

BY Jaclyn Cunningham        May 25, 2016

Do you want the best for your teen?

A life of clear direction, confidence, great relationships, and all around happiness?

Do you worry that they’ll end up in a job they hate, going through the motions of a humdrum life, without any real satisfaction?

Do you want them to set their sights high and really go for it?

Here are 3 ways to support your teen to dream big:

1. Encourage them to dream big for themselves AND others.

Ask them what their dreams are. What do they really want for their life? Not just in their career, but also in the areas of relationships, lifestyle, health, and finances.

What kind of world would they love to live in? How can they contribute to this? What are the issues in the world that they care most about and that affect them emotionally? How can they use their gifts and talents to contribute?

Because this is where real joy comes from. It’s not about being a martyr. It’s not about sacrificing their own happiness in order to serve. It’s about achieving a happy and fulfilling life in a way that contributes to the wellbeing of others and the world.

2. Minimize their fear of failure.

What if they dream big and don’t make it? Will they look like a fool? What will others think of them?

Maybe they want to fit in. There’s comfort in being average. It’s scary to stand out from the crowd. But they don’t fit in. They’re special and unique.

Let them know it’s OK to be different. Let them know you believe in them and their potential to succeed. Let them know that on the path to success, failure is inevitable, and persistence is essential.

3. Teach them to embrace uncertainty.

What if things don’t work out? What if the unexpected and awful happens?

The survival of our species on this planet is currently statistically unlikely. Does that mean we stop dreaming of a better world? That we stop taking action steps in that direction?

No. When we plant a seed in the ground there’s no guarantee the plant will grow. When you gave birth to your child there was no guarantee everything would go smoothly.  

“Satisfaction lies in the effort, not in the attainment. Full effort is full victory.” - Gandhi

For exams, teens can apply these same three strategies. Dream big and aim high, let go of the fear of failure, embrace uncertainty by letting go of attachment to the outcome, and then fly.

Or to put it more simply: overprepare and then let go.

When they do this, they are better able to enjoy the journey. They can apply full effort without fear.  And because they did their best, there are no regrets.

And paradoxically, they’re more likely to achieve.

But what if they’re not achieving at school? You know they’re bright and capable, but what if this isn’t reflected in their grades?

The danger is that they start believing they’re not good enough and that they'll never be successful.

Some of the brightest and the best will never succeed at school. They don’t mould to this conventional system. They do things they’re own way.

Keep believing in them. Keep reminding them that anything is possible and that they can achieve anything they are truly willing to work towards.

Does this mean buck against the system? Fight and rebel? No. Teach them to use the situation to their advantage. Question and debate ideas in a productive way. Ask for alternative subjects and activities if what is being provided doesn't suit them.

Encourage them to learn what they can from their current situation. And if they don’t love it, to dream of something different.


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Jaclyn Cunningham

Jaclyn Cunningham is a writer and youth mentor at jcinspireyouth.com. She is passionate about guiding youth to realise their unique potential, and inspiring them to live a full and happy life. To receive her weekly blog and her free ebook “5 Simple Strategies to Inspire Youth,” sign up here.

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