Dear Savvy Auntie,

I'm 26, I have 5 siblings, twenty nieces and nephews by relation, including 7 by marriage, and a few nieces and nephews I’ve "adopted" by choice. There's a huge age difference between me and my siblings so we aren't really in each others’ daily lives.

I've started to spend time with one of my 16-year-old nieces. She'll be a junior when school starts again the fall.

Today, I asked her what she plans to do after she graduates high school. She has absolutely no idea! I asked the typical: “What do you want to be when you grow up?” question. Still no idea.
I was so shocked that she didn't have any dreams. She said she'd never been asked. (Her background is a bit complicated...) I listed some career ideas, but she was so clueless as to what any of them really were.

I know at this age she doesn't have to have a concrete plan, but I think she should have a little idea of what interests her. I want to inspire her! I want to give her options! I want to show her what's out there. But I don't know how or where in the world to start!

Want to Inspire

Dear Want to Inspire,

You must be a very caring auntie to pay so much attention to your niece when you have such a large family!

Take heart! You have already started the process for her to think about what she might want to do.

I suggest rather than a direct question, or specific suggestions, you just pick up on anything she seems interested in and then compliment her by saying, “You are really good at…” It can be as prosaic as her mentioning how cute the puppy is, how pretty a piece of clothing is, how good a book is, or what a mean friend so-and- so is.

Talking about how much she likes animals, what a good eye she has, how she is a discerning reader, or how perceptive she is about other people…well, you get the idea. Her sense of herself will expand and aspects of her self will become clearer. I can’t think of a better way to inspire a 16-year-old - or anyone, for that matter.

Happy “Auntie-ing,"
Natalie Robinson Garfield

Updated and republished: June 28, 2017

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