In this crazy time, we know you’re doing everything you can to care for and protect yourselves, your family and your community. Let's take a moment to breathe, relax, and figure out how to make the most of our family time. Want to do something productive and inspiring with some of those moments between Netflix and puzzles? Here are some ideas from on how this time could change your children’s lives.
This period of self-isolation could be a trying time for parents and children, or a rare opportunity for genuine bonding and quality communication. What do your kids love to talk about, do, focus on? What drives them crazy when it’s missing? It can be pretty enlightening to see what we can learn from just watching and listening to them become these amazing beings in front of our eyes.
At some point, all humans ask themselves, “Why am I here?” and, “With my unique talents and potential, how can I make a difference?” Many live their whole lives without resolving these questions. Those who find answers and act accordingly are more likely to enjoy success and enduring happiness. Other than your unwavering love, what more could you give your children?
Even young kids care passionately about issues that need solutions in their community, their country, and the world. Passion, motivation, engagement, and resiliency (grit) follow when people discover their WHY. Issues even young children care deeply about are climate change, threatened animal species, bullying, injustice, inequality and unfairness, pollution, safety, poverty, bullying, hunger, homelessness.
Your children’s issues will be different, one to another. You’ll know you’re making real progress when your kids start saying things like “I want to help rid the world of plastics, be the best rapper, singer, dancer, athlete ever - alleviate pain and suffering - make sure AI is a force for good - lead people to God - build a happy family - start my own business - help the homeless - discover worlds beyond earth - reduce our carbon footprint - discover the cure for cancer - improve mental health - make peoples’ final years peaceful and dignified - make art that brings joy - help build happy, safe, diverse communities.”
When young people begin to discover possible WHYs, unimaginable potential is ignited in their adolescent brains. And we’re going to need their brains to solve existential challenges we adults have not solved. Imagine how much fun they’ll have solving problems we couldn’t. And how proud you’ll be when they do!
Beware not to ask, “What are you going to be when you grow up?” Being able to name an occupational goal (I’m going to be a ….) is not a WHY. It’s a how. And this question generates unnecessary stress. How can children possibly know all possible occupations and pick the perfect one? Could you as a teenager? Like them, most of us hated being asked this.
Help your children test tentative WHYs by connecting them with people now doing what they imagine themselves doing in the future. Adults love to talk about their work with sincere young people considering following in the footsteps.
We’re told we are 6 degrees from everyone on earth. Between our family, work, church, club, and other connections it’s not hard to find someone doing what your child is contemplating. Schedule a meeting when COVID-19 self-isolation is over. Among the questions your child could ask are: “Do you love your work? Why? How did you get here? What education and training are needed? Do you see a good future in this work? What other kinds of jobs are related? What skills and experience should I work on now? Are you happy with the lifestyle your job provides? Where can I get more information on this work?” [Note: Insist your kids send thank you notes.]
Start this conversation with your kids during this unexpected period of closeness. Then continue it until they are adults. Unlike most high school graduates, they will know their post-secondary learning pathway with certainty, and they’ll know which employers or entrepreneurial possibilities they are headed for. They’ll have had several interviews and job shadows, and, in all likelihood, relevant work experiences, internships, and summer jobs. Chances are good they’ll be more engaged and successful in school. More important, through participation in school and community clubs and activities related to their WHY, they will have developed social-emotional competencies, soft skills, and character that will serve them well in all future situations and relationships.
What a perfect opportunity to start heart-warming, life-changing conversations with your children! There is nothing like family! Take a deep breath and start making the most of your unexpected together time to get closer. Listen, acknowledge, care, appreciate, encourage, believe. Suspend certainty and have conversations that will last a lifetime!
Once you break the ice, you’ll all have fun. And your grateful children will appreciate and admire you more than you can imagine!