Adults can help kids keep their options open so their dreams can become reality.
- Parker Barry
Of course, not every kid wants to grow up to be a doctor or work in health care. Yet all kids should feel empowered to explore and work toward any career that interests them.
Medicine is one example of a field that still has a long way to go to make sure every job and rank in every one of its specialties is open to all. Until then, parents and teachers can play important roles in helping kids keep their options open when it comes to all careers, including careers in medicine. Read these tips to find out how.
- 1. Start early. “The earlier, the better,” said Dr. Alma Littles. “Parents can start the conversation and the process even earlier. Helping promote the habits of reading and exploring their curiosity will help create interest in developing analytical skills early. Introducing children to math and science concepts even before they start school will help nurture those interests, which means they will not be as intimidated by those subjects when they start school.”
- 2. Choose toys carefully. “Girls who played with a Barbie doll — irrespective of whether it was dressed as a fashion model or a doctor — saw themselves in fewer occupations than are possible for boys,” according to a 2014 UC Santa Cruz/Oregon State study. “Girls who played with a Mrs. Potato Head reported nearly as many career options available for themselves as for boys.”
- 3. Watch your language. “Children are always listening,” said Meredith Magee Donnelly, M.S., Ed., creator of the curriculum Exploring Gender Stereotypes with Children. “As adults I think it is incredibly important to take time to reflect on our own biases. We all have them! Do a self-audit of the language you use with children.
- 4. Advocate academics. Ask what math and science classes are available at your kid’s school. Support your kid’s academic growth. Aspiring neurosurgeon Krish says he already studies every day in third grade and he’s ready for the tough years of academic study ahead.
- 5. Change schemas. Give kids images and experiences that counter schemas based on gender or race. “Schemas over time are malleable,” Belle said. “We can change our own and affect others’.”
- 6. Share stories. Kids are often inspired by stories of struggle and hope. Aarnav, who had a heart defect as a baby, wants to be a doctor in part because of the surgeon who saved his life. Gabriella’s science teacher is sharing his pancreatic cancer battle with his students. His positive attitude through treatment motives her even more to pursue studying to become a medical researcher to prevent or cure illnesses like his.
- 7. Encourage experiences. Let your kid play with the idea of medical careers through apps like Toca: Life Hospital. Attend science-oriented camps. Look for support and exposure programs like SSTRIDE. “You should see the faces of these kids when they get the opportunity to come to the medical school and see medical students and faculty or take tours of hospital facilities and surgery centers,” said Dr. Littles.