My teenage son does not know what he wants to do and that’s OK. I don’t say that lightly and as  a mum I am concerned but I am starting to wonder if us mums don’t worry too much.

My son is 17 and left school last Summer. He was ill for a lot of the year and his results were not a true reflection of his intelligence at all. There were some great results particularly in mathematics and RS. He has mild dyslexia and I have always said he has dyspraxia so her finds writing tiresome and struggles with presentation skills.

When I had my son,  I sort of assumed he would be academic like myself. I did not  expect him to go to any particular university but I did think he would do GCSES, A-Levels and then a degree. It was the route I took so when it was obvious he was super-intelligent, that’s what I thought would happen. I went to Cambridge and studied Law so maybe that put some undue pressure on him without me even realising it.

I told him he could take a year off after leaving school to work out what he wants to do. This has done him the power of good. He has had time to stop and stare, to play and to relax. I think our schools put far too much pressure on young people these days and then we all throw up our hands in surprise when the country’s children end up with mental health issues.

Then there is the news from friends and family members that their children are doing so well spreading their wings and once again,  I think it must be me. I have cocked up and my children will be the victims. I  can feel envious and even start disliking heartfelt friends as they crow about their kids on social media.

Of course, it all nonsense! Why should my son know what he wants to do just because that would make my life a bit simpler? In many ways, it is great for me as it means he lives at home and I have his amazing company and a bit (a very bit!) of help around the house. If he is not yet ready to fly the nest, that’s OK. After all so many graduates end up coming home to roost in the end anyway unable to afford anywhere to live and saddled with heaps of debt.

Why do we do this thing right from birth that human beings who are individuals in their own right are expected to hit key milestones at specific times? It just leads so many people to think they are failures and that is a bad message for children and adults alike.

A college/university education guarantees nothing. I have never done particularly well once I decided to leave a legal career behind in a hope I could help poorer and more disadvantaged people. Perhaps some of those  people will remember me with affection though and perhaps I made a difference.

My younger brother got less than average results and ended up going to music college as a mature student. He has travelled the word as an opera singer and teacher. This all happened because my parents encouraged my brothers to do amateur dramatics and Ian Wallace happened to visit our Town Hall and hear my brother practising. He told him he had real talent and helped him find a way to give up his job on the local newspaper and to pursue a singing career.

My oldest brother left school with just an 0-Level in woodwork and ended up a merchandiser for Monsoon and a property developer to boot. This is probably because he met his partner.

So often it is not about the exams or the experience but more about who we happen to meet along the way. My Dad was inspired to become a sailor by a relative and walked out of school with no exams whatsoever so he could pursue that dream.

My mother left school with no exams and had the sense to leave factory work behind. Again, when a cook in the nurse’s home at the hospital became ill at Christmas, Mum was in the right place at the right time and took over.

Back to my son. He has suddenly started to show an active interest in discussing what he wants to do. He has no idea really but knows he does not want  to do office work or to work with animals. He would like to work with people. I think he would be amazing in any customer-facing role as he is friendly, kind and polite. He does not drink or do drugs. He has a strong belief in fairness and is proud to say he is a feminist whilst also keen to ensure that the recent focus on women’s rights does not lead to an abuse of men. He knows so much about history and politics and keeps saying he would like to make films.

We can worry so much as parents. What if he never makes any money at all? What if he never finds his way? Not that long ago, the worry was would he ever learn to stay dry and eventually we hit that infamous Nativity Play where he stood in the middle of the stage and showed everyone his “Big Boy Pants” with pride.

The reality if in a few years time, I will probably read this post and wonder why I was concerned at all. I took a different route. Maybe he takes after me. I have made my contribution to the world and so will her.

My teenage boy does not know what he wants to do and that’s OK.


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I have a 17 year old son who did his GCSEs last year. He got good results but is not sure what he wants to do in the future. He has dyspraxia so is not a fan of writing at all which puts him off more academic environments. He also had a serious operation last year for quite an embarrassing issue which knocked his confidence. We are considering various options to help him recognise his talents and to develop his levels of self-confidence. One option for 16 and 17 year olds is the National Citizenship Service.

The NCS is an affordable opportunity that can make a real difference to teenagers’ lives whilst contributing to fixing some societal problems too. The whole exciting experience including food, accommodation and travel costs comes in at just £50 and bursaries are available on a case by case basis. Support is also provided for young people with additional needs. This seems like a good fit for my son and a brilliant opportunity for any 16 or 17 year old from England and Northern Ireland.

The NCS Programme in a nutshell

  • Puts teenagers through a number of challenging activities to take them out of their comfort zone. Pushing comfort zones always leads to great things in my experience including the development of self-belief and strength of character that can sustain you throughout life.
  • Provides a progressive journey so that young people take ever increasing baby steps and then develop leadership skills. I think my son is a natural leader with strong ideas and opinions. A structured programme like this might be just what he needs to help him move into and succeed in the workplace.
  • Enables participants to engage with their communities through  social action. As former charity workers, both myself and my husband are keen on helping others and encouraging our children to do so.
  • Consists of a two to four week programme, which takes place in school holidays, includes outdoor team-building exercises, a residential for participants to learn ‘life skills’, a community-based social action project and an end of programme celebration event.

National Citizenship Service

Did you know?

  • Almost 400 000 young people have taken part
  • More than seven million hours of community action have been completed making a positive difference to society.
  • In 2018 more than 100 000 teens from different backgrounds will come together in common purpose on NCS. This means one in six of the cohort of 16 year olds will live together, develop skills together and build community projects together

National Citizenship Service

What I love about the NCS

  • I think it is always good when young people from different backgrounds come together to share a unique experience. This leads to amazing memories and a better understanding of others’ points of view. In a troubled world, both of these are things we need more of in my opinion.
  • NCS was set up to build a more cohesive, mobile and engaged society. Who could argue with that? It has the potential to build a more peaceful future with teenagers going out keen to make their mark on the world and to ensure it is a positive one too.
  • NCS is the new rite of passage helping move teens on to a positive future with more self-belief and new skills.
  • For every £1 spent, NCS’ 2016 summer programme delivered between £1.15 and £2.42 of benefits back to society.


 Sign up today
There are still places available for your Year 11s to take part in this once in a lifetime opportunity this summer. To sign up now, go to the NCS website using this link:
Don’t worry if you have already booked your summer holidays or have other commitments over the summer as the NCS will work with you to find a date that fits in with your family circumstances.
This post is a collaborative post with Tots100
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