Today, I want to talk about the types of life skills that I feel are often swept under the rug.
We focus a lot on the more obvious ones.
However, we shouldn’t forget about the less tangible life skills that they will need to be happy with themselves and in relationships – whether they are familial, platonic, or romantic.
So let’s take a few minutes to talk about some of the social and emotional life skills we need to teach our children.
Let’s start with the basics – conversational skills. I think that we all focus on teaching our kids how to speak. We teach them the alphabet. We go over phonics. We obsess over reading skills and vocabulary. Conversational skills – not so much.
It’s important that we teach our children how to speak with other people. Notice I say WITH and not just TO. Knowing how to say what’s on your mind is one thing. Learning to listen and have a back-and-forth conversation is something totally different.
Often, people (even adults) lack this ability to have a two-way conversation because they’ve always been so focused on being heard that they don’t care about hearing what others have to say. It’s important to actively teach out children that listening is just as important as talking.
On a related note, we need to teach our kids how to empathize with others – even if we’ve never met or had a conversation with them. The ability to put yourself in someone else’s shoes comes more naturally to some than others. However, I don’t think it is a quality or skill that humans are innately born with. Instead, it is something that should be fostered – starting as soon as children are able to make observations about other people and form opinions about situations. For example, even very young children will become concerned when they see someone hurt themselves or cry because they are upset about something. Encourage apathy every chance you get – especially if you notice that you child doesn’t really display apathy very well. A simple “how do you think that person feels” or “how would you feel if ___” can be a great conversation starter.
Speaking of conversation starters, another thing to encourage in children is openness. We want our children to feel comfortable talking about things like feelings, hopes, and desires – without fearing what others will think or say. Encourage your child to come to you with anything and to never be afraid to be honest about what’s going on with the people they care about. That can go a long way towards mental wellbeing since people who hold things in are more likely to internalize all kinds of negativity rather than getting help.
Confidence, like all of these other skills, is something that can help us be successful in life, but that isn’t an innate skill or mindset. For some of us, it is something we have to work at really hard. And one could say that is because confidence wasn’t instilled in us when we were children. Make a conscious effort to really encourage your child and always Always ALWAYS show pride in their accomplishments, their personality, and anything else you notice that is positive. By giving children a strong sense of self, we are giving them a gift that will carry them far in life since belief in your self has a LOT to do with your goals, your belief that you can achieve them, and your drive to keep pushing forward even when things get hard.
Not taking things personally
Last, but not least, we need to teach our children to not take things personally. They should learn that sometimes “hurt people hurt people” and that the way people treat them is not a reflection of who they are or how they should be treated. They should also learn to take constructive criticism, but to not believe that any mistakes or shortsightedness is who they ARE. It’s so easy to internalize poor treatment, criticism, and judgment. The more we teach children NOT to internalize that negativity, the better off they will be.
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