Growing up, my mom always told me that the best gift she could give me was an education: "Something I would bring with me wherever I went."

In her mind and her vision, an academic education would open new doors for me and would allow me to go further in life than she ever did. Like any mother, she had big dreams for me. 

Now that I am a mother, I also want to give my children an education. One that will set them up for a happy and fulfilling life.  But over the years, I have learned that the power of education goes well beyond a diploma. It’s a formative experience.

As immigrant parents, we have big dreams for our children, and we know that much of their success depends on the education they receive at home and school. Yet our hopes extend beyond their academic achievements. We want our kids to be genuinely happy and successful on their own terms. 

As parents, it’s important to accept that our children’s dreams and aspirations may be different from our own. It can be tempting to try and steer them in a direction that we think is best for them, but it’s important to respect their wishes and let them follow their own path. It is important to encourage our children to dream and pursue what makes them happy. The best success comes from following one’s passions, not from doing what is convenient or what someone else wants. Let your children know that you support their dreams and choices, and they will be more likely to find true success in life.

Recently, a lovely coincidence happened as I was writing this piece. I was contacted by a Latina mom from my community to share her excitement and pride because her teenage daughter had been awarded a prestigious scholarship to attend college. Her teen had worked hard for years and received support from a local non-profit organization. These are the success stories that inspire us and remind us that we are not alone in our dreams of better opportunities for our children.

I have a 15-year-old daughter who is exploring who she is and what she wants in life. She is on her way to choosing the path she wants to follow, and I’m watching her dreams being born and developing in real-time. That sometimes means breaking patterns that we have been carrying for generations.

We are learning together, and in the process of supporting her choices, we are teaching her that her voice matters.

In her fifteen years, she has dreamt of becoming a writer, illustrator, astronaut, actress, and even an opera singer. Allowing her the space to dream and explore her passions as much as possible is a beautiful gift. We have learned so much about her through this process, and she has grown confident knowing our love does not depend on the outcome of her dreams. She knows we’re here for her, no matter what.

I realize it is not my place to dream or choose for her but to encourage and support her, to be here for her when she needs me.

FORWARD TOGETHER TIP:

Supporting your teen as they explore their passions is so important. Here are some ideas to help get your teen connected to their spark.

As parents, we know how much our daughter loves art and illustration. It brings her peace and joy, and she has been curious about it since she was three. She loves telling stories and writing. These are her great passions, and they fill her heart with happiness.

Now that she is a teen, we think it’s very important to help her identify and appreciate the things that bring her joy. Whether she eventually chooses to pursue them as a career or not, I wholeheartedly believe that happiness in adulthood comes from exploring and feeding the passions that fill our souls. Never let go of the things that bring you joy.

At the end of the day, the most important tools we want to give our children are emotional — teaching them to become resilient and  to work hard to achieve their dreams and their potential. It doesn’t matter what those dreams may be, even if they change throughout their lives. We let them know that we are happy to dream with them.

As a parent of teenagers, it’s important to remember that we are all in this together. We are all trying our best to figure things out. And as long as our kids are happy and come to us when they need us, knowing that they’ll be met with love, we are doing a good job.