As another year is almost to an end, it makes a lot of us think about what lies ahead for our children in the future. I learned this year again how "old" I feel when I buy high tech items for my kids and grandkids and have no idea how to run them, let alone "wanting" to learn how to use them. When we stop and think about the changes that have occurred in just the last few years with laptops, kindles, ipods, ipads, smart phones (though they could be called something quite different for those of us in the "older" generation), androids, etc. it makes us even more aware of what our children will be expected to adjust to on a monthly basis in the future.
The children of today will inherit a vastly different world than the one we inhabit today. So how should you prepare them for this unknown future? The November/December 2011 issue of Exchange addressed this question with four Beginnings Workshop "FutureThink" articles, including "Preparing Our Children Now for the Future: "Five Outcomes to Pursue." Given the current climate, one might expect these outcomes to be "hard skills" such as early proficiency in reading, writing and math. Rather, experts in the fields of business, workforce trends, and early childhood education strongly pointed toward five "soft" skills:
Social Intelligence - "The ability to connect to others in a deep and direct way, to sense and stimulate reactions and desired interactions."
Creativity - "In a world where change will only happen faster, workers who can creatively relate to new scenarios will be highly valued."
Cross-Cultural Competence - "Workers of the future must be able to successfully communicate shared goals, priorities, and values in a way that transcends differences and helps foster a spirit of collaboration."
Resilience - "Children need to encounter limits and hardships to learn how to persevere and solve problems by themselves."
Love of Nature - "Finding solutions to environmental challenges will require the best minds and the best efforts of this and future generations."
Not that children shouldn't strive to be proficient in reading, writing and math skills, but the children of the future will need to focus even more than ever before on the skills listed above. In recent years, early childhood programs have begun to focus on social/emotional skills, problem solving, creativity, the importance of play in a child's development, empathy, and the role of nature in their development. If a child does not have social/emotional skills, it will be much more difficult to teach them the "hard skills"; if they are not exposed to other cultures, they may not learn how to accept and value others' differences and may miss out on what everyone can offer and bring to the table; if they are not allowed to experience nature, they may never learn to appreciate and protect it. Parents need to set limits without squelching a child's spirit; allow children to play and explore; teach children manners, sharing and empathy by providing play experiences with other children; and provide schedules and routines so children know what to is expected of them. Much the same way adults have a schedule and appreciate knowing what is going to happen next, children also feel more in control and secure when they know a daily routine.
As we step into this next year, remember to reach out to your children and provide that face to face interaction. Put the laptop and cell phone down for a few minutes and spend quality, uninterrupted time with your family. Be the role model that teaches them the importance of one on one time spent together, because we never want to replace those special moments with texts, e-mails, etc. Whether they are three or thirty years old, we always want them to experience the love they "see" in our eyes every time we look at them.
Wishing all of you a safe and wonderful new year!
Sue Junge is an Early Childhood Specialist for the Marshall County Early Childhood Iowa Area and is a Thursday columnist for the Times-Republican. The views expressed in this column are personal views of the writer and don't necessarily reflect the views of the T-R. For more information, please visit www.marshallempowerment.com.