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Helping young people to make difficult decisions

By Dr Dominique Thompson.


Here are some of my Top Tips to help you, when your young adults have difficult decisions to make. This might be useful for situations like choosing which subjects to study, choosing a university, or even a career, so I hope you find them useful!




  1. Give your young person space. It is tempting to rush in and sort things for them, and make decisions to get rid of the anxiety-inducing uncertainty, but the key thing here is that your teen needs to be the one making the final decision. They have to live with it, and they need to be engaged and connect with whatever they choose. So, ‘get alongside them’, make yourself available and open to discussion with them, make it clear you are interested, but that it is their decision.

  2. Make a list of priorities that will shape the decision. It is much easier to make the right decision if you know what you are basing it on. For example, if they are choosing subjects- what matters most to them about the ones they choose? Creativity/ reading/ facts/ a mix? If they are choosing a uni, do they want a particular city/ rural v urban/ or best for a particular subject? Nail the priorities and smooth the path to a decision.

  3. Remind them that life is not black and white (the teen brain tends to think in black and white- everything is ‘awful' or ‘awesome’!). No decision is set in stone forever. Things change, life moves on, the decision they make now should be right for now, but if they change their mind later down the line, then it’s possible to change path, even if it takes a bit of effort. Every year people change university course, for example, within weeks of arrival, or even university. Changing subjects at school is also possible, or adding a subject on. It may mean more work for a bit, but nothing is impossible.

So, there you have my ‘starter for 10’ top tips for making difficult decisions with teens…

You'll be doing most of this already, but the tips may be useful to bear in mind when emotions are high and stress is bubbling over (yours and theirs!).

If you find this helpful you might like to take a look at my book, How to Grow a Grown Up (PenguinRandomHouse), which is full of similar practical advice for raising your teen (or tween!) to be independent and resilient in the 21st century!