Choosing school subjects

Estimated read: 5 minutes 

Choosing subjects at school is an important part of your child’s life, as they take the first steps on the path of their potential future career.

Key points: 

  • Encourage your teen to talk to you about their subject choices and career path. They could also talk with the rest of the family, friends and neighbours to get their views
  • Explore their career choices by arranging work experience in that specific field to help them make an informed choice
  • Help them think about what they really enjoy and are passionate about. They are far more likely to succeed in these subjects than in those they feel they 'must' study
Choosing school subjects

Choosing what subjects to do for GSCEs may have already got you thinking about the future with your child - whether they continue with their education, do more studying or they look for more vocational studies. It may be that they are already saying they want to leave school after exams and get stuck in to a job. This stage can sometimes trigger a tension between a parent and teenager.

Talking through their choices 

There is a lot of pressure to achieve academically and sometimes the dreams we have for our children do not match what they want. Parents sometimes tell us that they are frustrated by their children's lack of motivation: their unwillingness to knuckle down. Parents tell us how anxious they can become when trying to persuade their children that they just want the best possible future for them. But children can achieve good rewarding careers through a number of routes. 

Sometimes your child may not choose the route you think is best but is it worth talking to them about all the options. Remember, your child might feel they are being 'nagged' so just let them know that you just want the best for them. If you show them you have looked into a few options they may be more willing to listen. You may also want to think about letting them get on with it - perhaps they need to try a few different things before they decide which route to take. Some young people get a job for a while to get a taste of the world of work and then go back to study. Sometimes exploring a few options helps them work out what they really want. 

Our top tips 

  • Encourage your teen to talk to you about their subject choices and career path. They could also talk with the rest of the family, friends and neighbours to get their views
  • Ask your teen to talk to their teachers - particularly those who teach the subjects they are interested in. They can then get a feel for what the course content will be for their chosen subjects
  • Explore their career choices by arranging work experience in that specific field to help them make an informed choice
  • Ensure your child is making the most of the careers room at school, alongside other school resources, online, and local library.
  • Although you want your children to look to the future and choose subjects that will help them towards a career they are interested in, they should also consider what they really enjoy and are passionate about. They are far more likely to succeed in these subjects than in those they feel they 'must' study
  • It is never too early to start thinking of Higher Education. Start with your child’s particular interests and investigate the courses available in those subjects. The UCAS website is a good place to start for the information about the process of applying to university and there is a helpful section for parents

Further resources 

It may help to chat to other parents on our forums to find out how they are dealing with this issue within their family life. You can also talk to us online via our live chat service, email us at askus@familylives.org.uk or call us on our helpline on 0808 800 2222 to speak to trained family support worker. 

This page was updated on October 2021

Donate now

For support call our confidential helpline on 0808 800 2222 or email us at askus@familylives.org.uk. Your opinion matters, please share your views on our website by filling in our survey.