An Opportunity to Teach Life Skills
Just as my two college-age daughters were launched, we find ourselves back under the same roof. Many colleges are moving to online classes for the weeks or months ahead. In my community, schools are closing. Employees are asked to work from home, if possible. “Social distancing” is a term we are now familiar with and encouraged to practice. Our traditional structures and systems are temporarily suspended. We are adrift and must adapt quickly. Although I wish there was not a pandemic, I see this as an opportunity to prepare our children for the life skills they desperately need to thrive in the 21st century. Here are some ways we can model and encourage responsibility and collaboration:
1. Reach out to neighbors and find ways to provide community support. There are many people who are at elevated risk for dying of Coronavirus, especially the elderly and those with compromised systems. Find just one person and reach out. Offer to grocery shop for an elderly neighbor. FaceTime grandma. If you have healthy teens (take temperatures continually), consider having them babysit for friends or neighbors who need to work. Thirty-eight percent (38%) of nurses have school-age children. We need to find ways to support all health professionals. They are the irreplaceable front lines in this battle against the virus.
2. Create a Responsibility Chart. Rather than focusing our time on keeping our children entertained or doing schoolwork, we can involve them in helping out in our homes. Cooking, cleaning, gardening and all the other components of daily life will still go on. We can teach them what it means to collaborate and do their share to help. Even small children can contribute.
3. Rediscover the Outdoors. Research shows the calming effect of being in nature. Go for walks, hikes or bike rides. Let the kids play in the neighborhood. Rollerblading does not involve close contact. Physical activity is beneficial for our minds and bodies and can release pent-up frustrations and fears. It can also give us a much-needed break from being cooped up.
4. Encourage Self-Directed Learning. Sitting and absorbing information is not learning. Two-thirds of high school students are disengaged. Learning happens when interest, relationship, and safety are present. In reality, education happens everywhere. While they may have to do some mandated programs, encourage them to also explore things they are interested in. Let them go down that rabbit hole of discovering more about their particular, and maybe peculiar, interest. This might be a good time to expose them to coding programs or games. They can also create video challenges to engage their peers, especially related to what they are doing to help others during this pandemic. Go outside the box of rote memorization and passive learning. This is the basis of lifelong learning. (I will be posting educational resources on my Facebook page, @PamRoyBlog.)
5. Embrace the Pioneer Spirit. When pioneers set out in their wagon trains, they were on their own. They relied on each other for survival. Older children looked after younger children while women sewed, cooked or cleaned. Grandmothers helped teach children to read and write. Men made more physical contributions and provided protection as was their role in that era. This is a time to help each other out in small numbers. Take turns overseeing children with a friend or neighbor. (Again, take temperatures prior to contact.) Cook for each other. Start a neighborhood vegetable co-op. Trade food items or necessities so everyone has what they need. Become aware of what is happening with others who live nearby and may be suffering from isolation. Check-in with each other. Here is where social media and Facebook Groups can help. This social glue can be lifesaving as well as life-enhancing.
Adaptability, creativity, critical thinking and collaboration are the essential ingredients to success in both life and the new world of work. These will not be developed in a school system that insists on compliance, conformity, and individual achievement. We have an extraordinary opportunity to improve our children’s quality of life and their ability to deal with life’s inevitable transitions. We have the freedom to choose how we react to this unprecedented time. Let’s choose wisely.