One thing is certain regardless of the zip code in which we reside: There is uncertainty on what to expect as we countdown the days until school starts. After a year and a half of an education pivot, the hopes of returning to what was once normal is still shrouded in the unknown. As we soak up the summer sunshine and return to activities that we have missed, there are ways to tackle important lessons in preparation for the uncertainty surrounding the academic setting this Fall (and beyond).
Even though there are many factors beyond our control, there are many areas in which parents can take the lead to inspire greatness in their children: Development of soft skills and responsibility through ownership are two.
Our students have missed out on the socialization and development of soft skills that are critical to maturing over the past year-plus. Employers are looking for individuals that are not only prepared academically, but are coachable, approachable, and a team player. It has become increasingly difficult for employers to find applicants who are willing to listen, learn, and successfully integrate into a team setting.
Soft skills and responsibility can be developed and honed through social interactions in the context of athletic settings, in groups such as Boy Scouts/Girl Scouts, in theater or martial arts, and in the modeling of inspirational figures in history, literature, and current events. Take notice of situations when others have exhibited integrity, flexibility, reciprocity, generosity, or been an effective communicator that has inspired others to action and discuss it with your child(ren). Read together as a family and talk through the themes and character traits that you’d most (and least!) want to exhibit. Discuss challenging situations and decisions that characters made, and whether or not your child agrees or disagrees with their choices. This type of dialogue is so beneficial to great thinking, the love of learning, and the development of a strong moral fiber.
Students can also listen to TedTalks that interest them and discuss their takeaways with the family. Working together to complete a puzzle can promote the concepts of problem solving and teamwork. Ownership of an area of responsibility is a highly beneficial tool to develop great character (and great adults and future employees). Make it age appropriate. For example, a teen can be responsible for the yard work, laundry, or planning and preparing meals for the family. A younger child can take ownership of tending to the family pets or washing the dinner dishes.
Other great materials to enhance soft skill development can be found in:
- U.S. Department of Labor
- Association for Middle Level Education
- Open Colleges
On a local level, back-to-school activities and community events will increase as the Fall approaches. We should remain optimistic and continue to find new ways to engage our students. The reality is that the digital world as a part of the educational toolbox is here to stay. There are great resources available like those listed above online that can enhance the learning experience for your student. That said, nothing compares to parents spending intentional time with their children.