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How to Deal With Your Millennial's Entrepreneurial Spirit

Embrace the dream; don't kill it

How to Deal With Your Millennial's Entrepreneurial Spirit, Father and Daughter Talking

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Adult children often put aside their own dreams because of parent's expectations.

After a life-threatening illness in her early 30s, Romila Mushtaq recovered and took up yoga, meditation and traveling. A neurologist "running on a hamster wheel in stilettos," she found more than physical healing in her new pursuits. Mushtaq started to dream about starting her own business.

After devising a game plan and saving for 18 months, she told her father, also a physician, that she was leaving her lucrative position at a hospital to strike out on her own. His reaction: "You are on a one-way path to self-destruction."

Perhaps a bit of an overstatement, but one that many boomer parents understand. A Deloitte report, "One Foot Out the Door," found that 66 percent of millennials expect to leave their current job by 2020. And 20 percent want to quit their jobs to start their own business, according to another study.

Told that a child is leaving a career to start anew, parents commonly react with a flood of worries, from emotional to financial. For Mushtaq's father, such concerns proved to be unfounded. His daughter, now known as Dr. Romie, runs her own company, the Center for Natural and Integrative Medicine, in Orlando. She teaches individuals and corporations mindfulness techniques to improve daily living and reduce stress.

Mushtaq, now 41, had put aside her dream because she was expected to become a physician. She has met young adults with similarly prescribed life paths. "Often when parents see a child with certain skills or talents, they tend to plan their careers for them, often without asking what their life purpose or passion," she says.

Despite her parents' objections to her career change, Mushtaq forged ahead. Here's her advice for parents whose children are budding entrepreneurs.

  • Embrace your child's dream. "Your vision of success might not be their vision of success," Mushtaq says. But knowing that your parents love and support you can make a huge difference.
  • Speak from love, not fear. Tell your child, "We love you but are worried about you. What can we do to support you?" That doesn't necessarily mean money, but emotional and practical support. When Mushtaq's father adjusted to his daughter's pursuit of a new career, he offered her the names of business planners and others she could consult.
  • Ask questions. "Ask your child what her plan is and how she will cover expenses in the transition," she says. "Ask, don't tell. Once you tell, you get into a control situation and are treating your child like they are in elementary school. That fractures the parent-child relationship."

Mary W. Quigley, a journalist and author, has written two books about motherhood and work. An NYU journalism professor, she is the mother of three adult children and blogs at Mothering21.