Last week I attended a conference about the Power of Purpose in Education. One of the speakers, Ariane de Bonvoisin, was presenting on how to navigate through changes and help children with this process. This talk was hugely inspiring - it made me think of all the things that we are taking for granted and mistakenly identifying as the key skills for raising successful and happy child.
For example, in today’s world we are preoccupied with getting our kids to excel on all academic parameters, and we load them with a mountain of extra-curricular activities to make sure they are ‘well-rounded’. But what about having the free time to learn to deal with themselves? When do kids actually have time to reflect on their inner selves? To recognise emotions, or to think and recall what they have done during the day? Did you know that many of the key perceptions that shape the character of a person for life are acquired before the age of six? And yet what are we doing to help our children develop their spirit and heart? What about instead of asking them how school was and what they learned today, we just ask our children how they are doing? And how about we truly listen to what they have to say.
We often neglect to cultivate the ‘soft skills’, conveniently forgetting that those are life skills. In fact, we should be calling them core skills, as those are the skills that will support us through life and the pursuit of happiness! Those are the skills that will help us to pass the biggest exam of all: Life. Life skills help us to effectively deal with the demands and challenges of everyday life. We already know that life skills development is of secondary importance in traditional education, so it must be left to us – the family, parents and friends to help our kids explore and grow this golden set of skills.
Now let’s get specific. Which skills, exactly, are we referring to? Here a summary of what I gathered from Ariane de Bonvoisin’s presentation:
Social and emotional skills aren’t just something to be developed in children - we all need to work harder at them! We are the reflection in our children’s eyes - if we appear sad and distressed, they will be also be sad and distressed.
Be kind to yourself and others. We don’t have to be perfect and it’s okay to make mistakes. Making mistakes is how we grow.
Teach your children generosity – help them to understand that it’s not all about them!
Emotional skills - let your children feel the full range of emotions. Don’t shield them from every instance of sadness, boredom, anger or other ‘negative’ emotion. Rather guide them – teach them to recognise the emotion and reflect on it. Ask them why are they feeling that way instead of trying desperately to make them stop crying as soon as possible by distracting them from their feelings. Work on that emotion and go through it together…. It is okay to ask for help and let them know that they are not alone in this.
Breathe! Teach children to breathe deeply. Breath helps you to focus.
Develop their self-confidence by enhancing their intuition. Let them know that they are capable of making their own decisions and if it ‘feels right’ it is probably the right decision. Trust yourself.
The ability to handle change. Life is a succession of changes, yet we seldom acknowledge them except to complain. How can you teach your child to successfully deal with change? Well start by explaining that with every change something good will come along - even if you can’t see it immediately. Positivity can be taught at the same time!
Mind your language. Language is a powerful way to influence how we fell… start being conscious about the way you speak. Instead of saying “I can’t…” rather say “I am not able to just yet” or “I need more practice”.
Be careful of labelling your kids. I often hear parents make offhand statements like “my kid is not good at maths, she is more into her books”. The more your children hear those statements, the more likely they are to accept that they are ‘bad are math’ and it will become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Don’t project negativity - especially around your kids - they are very perceptive!
Finally, be present and reassure them by constantly letting them know that:
They are safe.
They are loved.
They are good enough.
Just be your best you! Work on enhance your child’s courage, spirit, resilience and determination as those are the skills that will make them happy.
If you want to listen to Ariane de Bonvoisin’s full talk, it is only seven minutes long and totally worth watching: https://bit.ly/3cZwt4m
Let me know your thoughts and please feel free to comment.