At age 16 and age 18, young people need to decide what they want to do next. They might already have a good idea about their career plans, or they might want to keep as many options as possible open.

Your child’s school or college will offer a careers and options programme to guide them. But there’s plenty of research to show that the greatest influences on young people are their parents, their extended family and their community.

Even if you don’t think your child listens to you any more, or you don’t know much about the options, you are still an important influence.

Watch our Family Conversations film to see how important your role is:

What you can do

There’s a lot you can do to support young people as they make decisions:

  1. Research the options available: things have probably changed since you were at school or college. Find out more about post 16 and post 18 options today.
  2. Engage with your child’s school or college: over the year, the school or college will run events and activities, and may invite you to attend some of them. Even if they are not specifically about careers they can be a good opportunity to discuss your child’s options.
  3. Talk regularly about your child’s future: make careers, aspirations and interests part of everyday conversation, not just a topic for times when they are making decisions. Try the Conversation starter game for inspiration.
  4. Share your own experiences: whether you currently are in work, you are a full-time parent, you are seeking work or you are retraining, the choices you made and your skills will be useful for your child to know.
  5. Let your child lead the way: listen to their opinions about their options, and ask questions to help them make decisions, so that your conversations are positive and constructive.
  6. Encourage your child to do research: there’s plenty of information available online and from the school or college, who may recommend particular sources of information. If they’re interested in a particular career, you could suggest they explore the education and training they’ll need to be successful. Find out more.
  7. Use online tools: the Family action plan [Key Stages 3 and 4] and Pathway planner [Key Stages 4 and 5] can help you and your child explore their next steps.

Get top tips from experts on starting these conversations here.