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7 Steps to Help Your Kids Follow Their Dreams and Not Live in Your Basement When They're 40

Wouldn’t life be so much better if we all really could just follow our bliss and not worry?

I was having dinner with friends the other night discussing their child whom is heading to college soon. She’s interested in going to college for fashion or photography—2 words that send most parents into a fear-induced fetal position due to the most likely financial instability.

As a parent, we want to encourage our kids to follow their bliss, and to grab life by the horns, but as my friends put it at dinner, “It’s also nice to be able to eat.”

Every day we adults have to juggle the innate pull to follow our own bliss with being at peace with the fact that we also have to do our best to avoid homelessness, hunger and debt. If we all followed our bliss, there would be no bank tellers, librarians or really anyone anywhere.

We’d all be on the beach listening to Freedom Rock all day.

So how do we translate these really murky, discouraging life lessons to our children without scaring the snot out of them as we guide them towards figuring out who they are and where they desire to go in life?

Instead of sending them off with a kiss on the forehead and ambiguous permission to “Follow your bliss,” (my friends at dinner certainly weren’t proposing that), I want to do my best to raise my kids to tune into what they want and know how to work their buns off to get it.

Since my children aren’t close to college age, I have the luxury of being able to hit the pause button and ask myself how I’m going to prepare them for adulthood. I want to keep doing my best to follow these steps to help them know how to realistically go after their dreams while being prepared to take on reality that will poke its ugly head in.

I have zero doubt that I’ll mess up big time along the way, but here are some goals I have:

1—Be Specific

We’ve all doled out or heard from our parents phrases that warn us that life is not fair and how being a grownup sort of stinks big time. I know I heard that as a kid, but I never really grasped it until I hit the speedbump of Adultville, finally whispering to myself over my checkbook, “Ooooh, so THIS is what they were talking about.”

When pointing our kids in the direction of adulthood and chasing after their dreams, I think it’s important to include the fact that there are realistic variables that might cut into the fluffy bliss.

Our instinct as parents is to shield our kids from our money woes, but I say let them see the reality behind the curtain. Instead of telling my kids I don’t have enough money for something, I get specific, telling them buying pizza costs about $25 and we can make it homemade for about $7, so it’s a way better choice.

I tell them how much money I make and how much our bills are, so they will grow up knowing there is a process to acquiring things and it starts with work, self-restraint, and patience. My approach is to make them feel the absence of money and not let all their wishes be granted.

My financial state makes this easy for me, but if you’re loaded, you might have to fake this a little.

I wish money were not something we need to bring into the conversation while encouraging our kids to follow their bliss, but it’s a truth. This doesn’t mean we’re telling them to chase after the highest paying job. It means—like my friends said—it’s nice to be able to eat.

I want to do my best to set their moral compasses towards knowing that money doesn’t automatically equal happiness, but being smart with money and not relying on materialism for fulfillment is what will certainly help find happiness whether they are millionaires or minimum-wagers.

2—Give Pep Talks That Don’t Blow Smoke up Their Butts

We parents are well-intentioned when we tell our kids to go after their dreams or “The world is your oyster!” Yes, it’s your oyster, but it’s also every other kids’ oyster, so not everyone gets the oyster. Sometimes you get sandy catfish, and you have to know how to navigate that disappointment without giving up.

We need to incorporate that into our pep talks, so they’re not shocked when they come face to face with obstacles along the long trek that stifle their drive.

This doesn’t mean we’re constantly squashing their dreams. We’re still telling them we believe in them 100%, but bliss can be found in times we don’t reach our goals as well, so stay with it.