Creating a vision for your child’s future


For some years now, the process of visioning has helped businesses to define their goals and plan for the future. This process is highly effective because it relies upon collaboration among the people in the business, and it directs the actions of each person toward the final goals. This process of visioning can also be applied outside the realm of business.

Creating a vision for your child’s education and future career can focus the efforts of the child and the family toward a collective goal. This process can also inform IEP planning in a special education setting.

Step One: Imagine the future

Creating the vision involves lots of conversation. First, you need to know your child’s interest, abilities and the types of careers she or he might find fulfilling. Once you understand your child’s interest, you can explore career fields together at the library or online. For example, a child who has an interest in fixing things might enjoy a career that involves electronics or mechanical engineering, or that child might be interested in a trade like plumbing or HVAC.

Focus on the successes your child has had in the past and what makes her or him proud and engaged. These might point to skills and talents that can be developed into career goals.

Step Two: Determine the time frame

How many years ahead should you look? That often depends on the age of the child and the goal. For example, setting a career and education vision for a 15-year-old who wants to go into finance might be a ten-year plan, whereas the plan for a 10-year-old who wants to be a physician might be a twenty-year plan.

What career does your child want? Map out the type of education they will need to get there. You will need to talk about how to reach the goal and what skills, adaptive tools and education are required.  Once you know how long it will take to reach the goal, you can break it into smaller chunks and set short-term goals.

Step Three: Think about resources

What will you need to enact the vision? Are their financial resources to support your goals? Can your child earn scholarships for college? Are there devices or tools that your child needs? The vision is your opportunity to map out whatever might be needed, no matter how far-fetched. Once your make your wish list, prioritize the steps you can take now over the ones that have to wait.

Step Four: Write it out

The vision is only effective if each person is held accountable. To do this, write it out and make copies for everyone involved.

Step Five: Collaborate

It takes a village. Others in the family, and even beyond the family, will play roles in the success of your child. Determine how you will support your child and enlist the support of others. This can be as simple as making certain that your child arrives at school on time, allowing your child to job shadow someone working in their ideal career, or taking your child on a particular number of college visits so they can meet students who are working toward their careers.

As you collaborate, remember to talk to people with experience. If your child wants a master’s degree and you didn’t finish college, don’t be afraid to tell your child that you are not the expert in this area. Instead of offering advice on a subject you don’t know well, find someone who finished a graduate degree and involve them in the plan.

Step Six: Keep it visible

Place a chart on the wall, or keep a group journal to continue to focus on the vision. Have your child write or talk about how she or he sees himself in the future. If your child wants to be a chef, have the child imagine and write about the types of meals she or he will prepare or take photos in a chef’s uniform. The vision is more powerful when it is tangible, supported by others and repeated.

Step Seven: Affirming achievements

Positive affirmations about steps toward the goal are essential. Parents can write periodic notes (at least once a month) about behaviors or successes.  If your child wants to be a teacher, for example, you can jot them a thank you note when they teach a new skill to a sibling. “You did a great job teaching your sister to tie her shoes. You are becoming a great teacher.”

Step Eight: Set short-term goals

The vision is the long-term view, but within it are many short-term goals. Before getting to college, the child must complete the sixth grade, and completing the sixth grade successfully might involve improving math skills and reading skills. Set monthly meetings to discuss what small steps can get your child closer to the big leaps.

Step Nine: Revise and edit

Review the vision twice a year to make sure everyone is working toward the goal. This process is like setting GPS directions for a trip. Once you set the destination, you take a turn-by-turn approach to get there. You will have to look back at the map occasionally to make sure you are still going the right way, and the route might change.

Don’t be afraid to revise the vision. Children will change their minds; new skills will set new pathways. As parents, it is important to support the exploration and dive in with them. Adults often see  i as a waste of time to follow the changing whims of children, but encouraging children to see possibility provides a great gift that will serve them well during many of life’s challenges.

By guiding children through this process, parents empower children to participate actively in setting and reaching their own goals.


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Charisse Montgomery is the author of the Super Safe Kids series of books and safety tools. These tools engage children, parents, and their families in improving safety and advocacy in the hospital, the community and the home. A former educator, Charisse Montgomery has earned bachelor's and master's degrees in English, along with a master's degree in Educational Psychology, with research focused on informing and empowering parents of medically fragile children. She completed a graduate certificate in Patient Advocacy and serves on the Board at Rainbow Babies & Children's Hospital.

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