If you were to ask any parent what they wants their children to be when they grow up, you’d likely hear something along the lines of “independent and happy.” All parents want the best for their kids, and that usually means wanting them to grow into adults who are thriving in lives and careers they can be proud of.

Nearly everything that parents do for their kids, from early childhood to young adulthood, has this goal in mind. This is where the term “preprofessional” comes into play.

We use this term at our camps and programs to describe children with a healthy balance of three essential requirements for an independent, happy life: experience, education, and attitude. “Preprofessional” goes beyond labeling children and teenagers as students, acknowledging the many facets they may have: athlete, home cook, enthusiastic networker, budding scientist, future entrepreneur, and countless other titles.

Developing a preprofessional mindset early on is important for children. They might already know the basics of what’s expected of them in the future, but they deserve a helping hand.

Mums (and dads!) play a big role here. Parents can help their children begin to think about how the things they discover or enjoy today could have a real impact on them in their adult life. While previous generations had more traditional careers, Gen-Z’ers are growing up in a different world — they crave independence, professional growth, and meaningful work.

The skills they will need to be successful as a college student and preprofessional will be different from the skills that their parents or grandparents needed, so exposing them to these skills early and seeing what they naturally gravitate toward really matters.

Turning a Child Into a Preprofessional

As you parent your preprofessional children, put the following tips into play to get them thinking the right way:

1. Explain how your child’s experiences are preparing him or her for the future.

Even an experience like babysitting the neighbors’ kids or volunteering at a community group’s event is a chance to develop people skills, use good judgment, and tackle challenges, but don’t assume your child knows that — to your child, it might just seem like a way to make some extra money or spend an afternoon.

Give them insider knowledge. You might say, “Remember how you calmed down the Smiths’ toddler when he was upset that his parents left for the night? Understanding and solving a problem like that can be difficult, but you showed real skill there — and that’s going to be essential to nearly every job opportunity in your future.” If you’ve had a similar experience at your own job and can relate, even better. Encourage these kinds of discussions while you have your child’s ear, being transparent as to why you wish you had been able to see things so clearly when you were his or her age.

2. Let them experience new things at their own pace.

What happens when you push an idea on your children? Often, they want nothing to do with it (and may resent you for pushing so hard). Practicing preprofessionalism should take place in a relaxed, organic way so your child feels free to explore many different interests and strengths. From summer camps to guitar lessons, make it a priority to find out what interests
your child, and allow discovery to occur.

That said, don’t expect every avenue to be “the one” for your child’s future. Plant seeds here and there, and see which sprout. Not all the seeds will take root; that’s to be expected. If you send your child to coding camp, and he comes back without an ounce of interest in computer programming, it was still worth the experience. Exposure is the goal, not proficiency. Be patient, viewing this as a journey you’re supporting, not a destination with a deadline.

3. Approach learning proactively.

Ask any educator, and he or she will almost inevitably tell you there’s a lot of back-end work that goes into the activities created for students. The same goes for learning at home. If you approach learning activities halfheartedly, they might not resonate with your children.

However, if you plan these activities deliberately and proactively, there’s a much higher chance your kids will connect with them and get excited about them. For instance, instead of deciding on a whim to go to the art museum, take the outing to the
next level by looking up what’s on display and asking your kids to seek and find certain paintings. Preprofessionalism doesn’t come out of nowhere; it happens because you make it happen.

4. Go into new experiences with your head held high.

In no thesaurus is “new” synonymous with “scary,” but sometimes, it’s easy to feel that way—and that goes for kids and adults alike. However, this attitude teaches kids to fear the unknown rather than explore (and conquer) it.

Parents are in the perfect position to model behavior that doesn’t back away from new experiences. The next time you’re out to eat, try a dish that’s new to you, and encourage your child to taste it, too. When you’re at the neighborhood pool, a school function, or your tennis club, introduce yourself and your child to new faces. Learn phrases in new languages, read books together on a subject you know nothing about — the possibilities are endless! Eventually, your children will be leading the way, forging their own paths to new discoveries — and new passions.

Right now is a fun, exciting time to be a parent, and it’s never too early to treat your child like the independent person he or she will be someday. The world will demand more from this generation than any before it, so make sure your kids are ready to rise to the occasion.


Steve Robertson is the CEO of Julian Krinsky Camps & Programs (JKCP), an organization specializing in youth-to-adult programming that turns curiosity into passion and skill. Steve has been with the company for 18 years. In this role, his primary responsibility is to cultivate a culture that results in memories lasting a lifetime.

The catchphrase “Do you know where your children are?” was a popular public service announcement on American television, but despite your children being under your roof – do you know where they are in the digital world?

Sydney, 28 July 2014: Leaders in Heels were invited to a media event to discuss the findings of the 2014 Australian Teens, Tweens and Technology research by McAfee, part of Intel Security. The research looked into the online behavior of teens and tweens – from how they use apps to their opinions on cyberbullying and current online trends.

“Teens and tweens are comfortable operating in the online world, yet the risks have never been greater and they need to understand the consequences of their online behavior”–Melanie Duca, APAC Consumer Marketing Director, McAfee.

The Research

1013 teens and tweens of an equal gender split and representative of all Australian demographics were surveyed. McAfee’s research found that 81% of Australia’s youth have witnessed cyberbullying-a huge jump of 56% from 2013. This research, in its second year, aims to educate tweens and teens on the impact that risky behavior has on their privacy, reputation and social media experience.

The research found that YouTube is the number one social site across all age groups, with Facebook the most likely to be visited daily. However, new social media sites such as Keek, a video-based social networking site, Yik, an anonymous messaging site, and Snapchat, a photo-messaging platform where users can take photos, record videos, add text and drawings, and send them to a controlled list of recipients. These sent photographs and videos are known as “Snaps”. Users set a time limit for how long recipients can view their Snaps (as of April 2014, the range is from 1 to 10 seconds. There’s also Kik, a smartphone messenger with a built-in browser, and Keek, a social networking service that allows its users to upload video status updates, which are called “keeks”, have gained quick acceptance across all age groups.

Facebook has seen a spike in underage users, with 31% of 8-9 years old, compared with 26% in 2013 and 60% of 10-12 year olds admitting to having a Facebook profile, despite the minimum age being 13 years.

The survey also revealed that 40% of teens and tweens are experiencing cyberbullying.

Life Education Australia identified a huge demand for cybersafety and partnered with McAfee to educate primary aged children in cybersafety and cyber ethics. Coincidentally, my child was participating in the Life Education bCyberwise programme at school today – and she found it reinforced the advice we have given our children at home (phew). Their programme is aligned with the Australian curriculum and offers a safe learning environment, empowering children to make safe choices.

“Our bCyberwise and It’s Your Call programmes, developed in conjunction with McAfee, teach teens and tweens about being safe cyber citizens and how to respect others online, with the focus on prevention, as well as teaching valuable skills that promote social and emotional development, positive relationships, self-respect and safe-decision-making online.”–Robyn Richardson, Life Education National Programme Development Manager

Generation Like

What the research also found is that drive for attention and acceptance, as well as the growing comfort level of young people with digital media, is leading to them letting their guard down and engaging in risky behaviours. Nearly half (48%) have chatted online with a stranger and one in five have met someone in person that they first met online.

Parenting expert Dr Justin Coulsen explained that the pre-frontal cortex, where our higher-level thinking occurs, does not fully develop until the early 20s for females and mid 20s for males. This explains the impulsivity and “thoughtlessness” of our youth, who thrive on the social media currency of likes, shares and retweets to prove their popularity amongst peers.

“We know that teens and tweens are willing to sacrifice privacy and cybersafety for the gratification they feel when their social network responds positively”–Dr Justin Coulsen

Parental guidance

Parents need to guide experiences. Dr Coulson made the wonderful analogy that we wouldn’t give our children car keys and say off you go – drive. We ensure they learn to drive a vehicle properly, and once they attain their provisional license, there are still restrictions on driving behaviours. Eight in ten teens and tweens said they respect guidance from parents on personal decisions regarding social media and that their parents trust them to make the right decisions.

However, parents aren’t fully across their children’s online activity, with 70% saying their parents know only some of what they do online, as they proactively hide what they do online from their parents. Half said their parents can’t keep up with the technology. So parents, you need to up your tech cred. The key is monitoring, which means having a conversation with your children. Installing spyware is subversive.

Parents should establish an ongoing, non-confrontational dialogue with their children about this topic and continue to monitor their activities ,as well as stay up-to-date with advancements in technology and social networking .”–Alex Merton-McCann, McAfee Cybermum

Other survey highlights

Younger children fear being bullied online (27%), whereas teens are more fearful of losing their information (21%), being hacked (31%) and losing their privacy (23%).

Top Tips for Parents

  1. Connect with your kids. Talk to them about online risks and make sure the communication lines are always open.
  2. Learn the technology. Take the time to research the various devices and apps your children use. You want to know more than they do.
  3. Get Social. Stay knowledgeable about the latest social networks so you understand how it works.
  4. Reputation Management. Make sure your children are aware that anything they post online is permanent.
  5. Stay calm. If your children come to you with an online problem, do not over-react. Deal with it calmly and don’t threaten to take devices away, or they won’t feel confident seeking your help again.
  6. Be a model digital citizen yourself. If your children see you behaving inappropriately online, they’ll take that as a cue for their behavior.

Yolanda Floro

Yolanda is Leaders in Heels’ Social Media Editor.

You can read more about McAfee here.

You can read more about Life Education Australia and McAfee’s bCyberwise programme here.