By Edward Honnold
Q: My son who is 19 has left school with just one A level (D grade- Business Studies) and has gone to Australia traveling etc. He is due to come back in January and he has no definite idea of what he wants to do on his return. My wife and I would like to talk to someone face to face regarding the options that might be open to him so that we can advise him on his return. We would be obliged if you could help.
A: First, and most importantly, I hope you are proud of your son -- and that you will let him know that you are proud of him -- for taking this initiative to travel on his own so far from home. This overseas experience may prove to be among the most valuable in his life, whatever it may lead to next. When he comes home, you may be surprised at his increased level of maturity and self-confidence.
Second, you may wish to reconsider consulting a professional to discuss your son's options before he gets home. At age 19, your son should be in a position to do this himself. A consulting or counseling process will lead to much more meaningful results if it includes the client directly. After all, it is your son's personal and professional development that is at stake.
Finally, why are you concerned about your son's career path when he is still so young? At age 19, he may have a lot of growing up to do before he knows himself well enough to make any wise decisions. I'm sure you are concerned at least that he finish his undergraduate education, if he has not done so already. Perhaps you can discuss with him what you see as the pros and cons of doing this now rather than later.
In the meantime, I hope you spend plenty of time hearing your son's stories of his adventures overseas. Remember what happened to Odysseus on his travels around foreign lands, and how this "hero's journey" has now become understood as one form of initiation experience into adulthood. If you and your son are lucky -- and there may be no way to know the answer to this for some time -- a similar benefit may result for him. He has plenty of time ahead, in his own way and at his own pace, to complete his studies and find a professional path.