3 Life Skills to Teach Your Children Right Now
Right now, parents, teachers, and children are truly in it together. We are figuring out technology, remote learning, connection, empathy, change management, and prioritization together. It’s a day-by-day evolution, and in many ways, it’s a good thing for our families, classrooms, and society.
It’s an opportunity for parents to demonstrate leadership. Parental leadership means not just acting as a surrogate teacher, providing oversight for our kids’ academic curriculums, but intentionally choosing life lessons and life skills to share while we are hunkered in our bunkers, so to speak.
Luckily, all of these exercises check many boxes, are cross-functional, and don’t feel like “just more homework.” Research at the University of Colorado at Boulder found that the kids who have free time to create and structure their activities, develop stronger executive functioning skills than kids whose lives are more continuously structured by adults.
So, don’t tackle these projects as assignments, attempts to keep your kids busy, or as part of a curriculum, but rather share enjoyable experiences, have meaningful conversations, and create something amazing.
Project 1 — Zoom and Google Classroom
Some of you may have been working online for years. For others, you’re just getting used to working from home. Either way, you likely quickly discovered that Zoom and Google are a powerful combination.
Your kids are about to discover the same. Using Zoom, they’ll be able to see, hear, and engage with their teachers and classmates. Using Google Classroom, which functions like Google Docs, teachers, parents, and students can organize assignments, collaborate, communicate, share, and submit homework.
Using these new technologies not only facilitates remote learning, but it’s also an opportunity to teach kids how to show up on video, how to be considerate listeners, how to participate in respectful discussions, and how to articulate a point of view.
In addition, kids can learn about managing appointments, scheduling tasks, keeping track of logins and passwords, choosing and using different devices and equipment, balancing competing priorities, and setting healthy boundaries around tech.
That foundation will benefit them in virtually any career or entrepreneurial pursuit going forward.
Project 2 — Cooking and Gardening
Everything about food is heightened right now. Some supplies and ingredients aren’t available, some people are hoarding, and for the millions of kids who rely on school for regular meals, there may not be enough to eat.
Two important ways to influence the conversation and behaviors about food in your home is to cook and garden together. Meal plan, organize the pantry, wash, cut, and chop vegetables and fruit together. It makes a difference.
When we measure, we practice fractions. When we pour, we develop fine motor skills. When we modify recipes and experiment, we learn scientific concepts. All of these things that are seemingly straightforward tasks uncover new skills, provide a connection point for bonding and authentic conversation, boost confidence, and increase focus and attention.
And anecdotally, nearly all kids want to taste anything they are preparing — even vegetables.
You can talk about what’s in food, why something is healthy or not, where it’s grown, how it’s transported, how it’s priced, the consequences of waste, and how to budget.
When you plant a garden together, even a little patio garden, or just pots, it takes the lessons to another level: time, timing, soil, sun, bugs, patience, water, nurturing.
Like cooking, gardening isn’t just about what you produce, but about the moments working together, the long-term investment, and shared ideas and perspective.
When children make peace with food, when they learn to trust their bodies and know how to make healthy choices, that’s a battle they won’t have to wage at any other stage of their lives.
Project 3 — Homemade Masks
There’s some question about how beneficial homemade masks are, given that they aren’t as effective as N95 surgical face masks. However, if you are talking to anyone in the medical field, the shortage of PPE is real.
With that, you can decide as a family to make masks. There are numerous tutorials and supplies available online, and while it’s somewhat challenging, it gets easier, the more you make.
One reason to make masks is to benefit the end-user. You can drop off a box at the nurse’s house across the street, send them in the mail to your favorite doctor, or call a local hospital to see if they can use them.
Another reason to make masks is to connect your children to the solution. Often when there’s a big scary thing looming, children comprehend the collective anxiety, see the changes in adult’s behavior, and want to contribute in some way.
In this case, they saw the neighborhood get eerily quiet and know they can’t play with their friends. They may seem content with Disney Plus and extra family time. Still, by offering an opportunity to talk about their fears, to understand the situation, and to make a difference, you’re taking negative emotions and reframing them, which is a life skill too.
And, making homemade masks teaches sewing, cutting, measuring, pinning, math, patterns, planning, and empathy. It also inspires conversations about health, wellness, hygiene, contagiousness, and responsibility to others.
Let your children guide you, anticipate their needs, but pay attention to what comes up, and meet them where they are. We know for sure that children will never forget this time.
They are taking it all in, not just what you do or how you do it, but the attitude with which you do it and your mood. So take advantage of the closeness to create connection, to set the right tone, to model behavior, to focus on gratitude, to inspire hope and positivity, and to pass on these and other life skills that will benefit them as they grow.