Whether you are fostering or adopting a child, once of the biggest questions you will undoubtedly ask yourself is: what life skills and values you would like to instill in them? While it is true that all children have their own talents, interests, and outlooks on life, there are important lessons that nearly everyone can take with them in their adulthood. Take time to think about the things that matter to you and the extent to which specific skills or behaviors have helped you, and try to synthesize this into a small but valuable list. If you need a little inspiration, perhaps the following life lessons can be of help.
Being a Team Player
While independence and learning to stand on your own two feet are crucial for your health and happiness, most scenarios in your child’s life will involve working in a team - including school sports, friendship groups, and work settings. Even being in a relationship benefits greatly from a team outlook; when conflicts arise with a spouse, it pays to focus on the solution (as teams do) rather than take a blaming stance. To boost your child’s teamwork skills, try to get them involved in group activities. These don’t have to involve sports if they are not athletic; instead, they can take part in art, language learning, or other group classes and activities.
Valuing One’s Physical and Mental Health
The most common diseases and conditions in the world (such as heart disease, obesity, Type 2 diabetes, etc) are, to a great degree, preventable. Giving your child the gift of health is arguably the most important step you can take as a parent. Children should understand that their physical and mental health are intricately linked. That is, sound nutrition, good sleep, and stress reduction are should be important part of their lives, every day, if they are to feel healthy, energetic, and self-confident. Leading by example is key here. By preparing healthy meals, making exercise an important part of your life, and taking part in stress-busting activities like mindfulness meditation or yoga, you can be the benchmark for your children’s lifestyle choices.
Being Tech Savvy
This is the age of ubiquitous connectivity, and while the media is consistently warning parents of the number of hours spent by kids on devices (teens spend around nine hours a day consuming media, says The Washington Post), the truth is that nearly all industries are dependent on technology. Encourage your children to experience technology in a hands-on way, by allowing them to program a high-tech dishwasher, set the thermostat, or check up on any home automation system you have, from their smartphone. Kids should understand that technology makes life easier, and that they can take part in an industry involving invention and innovation. At the same time, you should feel free to establish set hours in which they can use devices like tablets and smartphones, which can interfere with homework and other tasks.
Giving Your All
Helicopter parenting (being too authoritative and demanding) has been shown in various studies to hamper a child’s development, but that does not mean you cannot encourage your child to do their best. Hard work can be promoted by prizing effort instead of actual results achieved. Thus, if your child is trying to life their grades and they don’t do as well as they expected, but they have worked hard every day, you should let them know unequivocally that their efforts have been admirable.
We have made a small list of life skills that generally come in handy to children and adults alike, but it is important for each parent to decide on the life skills they think are and will be important in the future. Some skills never change; these include so-called ‘soft skills’ like communication, stress reduction, and conflict resolution. Others, like technology, are constantly on the go. Once you have your list ask your child to make a list too; is there any way you can work towards these goals together? Once you have drafted your final list, start working towards way to pick up skills you both value, with a view to improving your child's health, happiness, and wellbeing.