How to use challenging times to develop essential life skills in children
By Kavin Wadhar
I feel sorry for children right now. Their routine is shattered, they are penned in at home while it’s sunny out and they are missing their friends. COVID-19 has brought tough times for the next generation.
Mind you, I feel pretty sorry for us parents too! Having to suddenly home educate whilst working, having financial and health anxieties, and trying to make sure we have a fully stocked fridge.
How are you feeling as a teacher? Tough times for you too! You will be doing the best you can for students of course, whilst looking after your own family too. What is your dialogue with parents like and what are their concerns?
During my work with parents, one thing I am hearing frequently is “I don’t feel fully qualified to teach this material.”
My response? “Actually, you are 100% qualified to teach what really matters.”
You see, when you think about it:
1) Parents have life experience they can talk about
2) They have strong relationships with their students (their kids)
3) Their class sizes are small (just 1, 2 or 3 kids usually)
4) They are better skilled for teaching by talking, rather than through resources
This is actually a great set-up!
OK, so it won’t work for learning Pythagoras’ Theorem, dissecting Shakespeare or experimenting with Acids and Alkalis, but it will absolutely work for holding conversations that really matter, getting children to talk, think and develop their brains in a more rounded way.
What do I mean by this? Well, just imagine parents asked their children these kinds of questions and think about the opportunities they bring:
· “How might others be feeling at this time?” (Empathy)
· “What can we do to help those in need?” (Collaboration)
· “What would you do if you were Prime Minister?” (Critical thinking)
· “What is a virus?” (Researching)
· “What is a new thing we can do at home for fun?” (Creativity)
What kind of conversations would result? The skill-building kind! Skills such as empathy, collaboration, critical thinking, researching and creativity can all be developed, alongside traditional academic skills of maths, English and science. Ultimately, boosting life skills for these kids.
I strongly believe that the combination of academic “hard” grades AND rounded “soft” skills like the above, are crucial for raising happy and successful children. So much so, I quit my corporate job to supports soft skill” development in children.
I’ve learnt that during any challenging time is the perfect time for learning and developing new life skills. Families can use tough moments positively as an opportunity to talk about what is happening, and if the right questions are asked we can gain some fantastic soft skill development for the kids.
Just imagine these other challenging situations:
· A grandparent passes away — The parent could ask: “What is the happiest memory you have of them?” (Positivity and gratefulness)
· The child performed poorly in an assessment due to lack of revision — The parent could ask: “What would you do differently if you could go back in time?” (Organisation and reflection)
· Your child’s team lost an important sports match — The parent could ask: “What would you say to the team in the dressing room if you were the manager right now?” (Leadership and critical thinking)
We know that emotions create memories. I remember better my first day of school (when I cried my eyes out) more than my first day of university, even though it was much more recent. During tough times when emotions are high, like Covid-19 or when a grandparent passes, parents have an opportunity to use it positively to develop these rounded skills — that will stick for life.
The best kind of ‘work’
This is ‘work’ that needs no checking or marking from you, the teacher. How cool is that?! There is purposefully no right answer to these questions, no scoring or grades to be awarded. The development is the conversation itself, which will get kids talking and thinking, and developing communication skills in the process.
Take this opportunity and any other challenging times in the future to give it a try!
Kavin is passionate about the importance of “soft skill” development in kids. So much so that he quit his corporate job leading the UK division of a FTSE 100 Education publishing company to start his own business to support this. KidCoach.app is a conversational tool that empowers and supports parents to help their kids think more creatively and analytically, while developing social and emotional skills — all at home. There are dozens of great questions parents can ask their kids, like those mentioned in the article above, that get kids talking and thinking more. It is 100% free to get started.