Anyone who has lived through the last seven years is sensitive to the possibility of unemployment. The world economy, straining under the burden of insufficient resources, overpopulation and irresponsible financial institutions is struggling to provide sufficient employment or income for its citizens.
Those of us with children wonder how we will raise them so that they are equipped to deal with the challenges that the future brings and we hope that they never need to know the pain of unemployment or retrenchment. We try to work out what combination of school subjects, extramural activities and home values will prepare them for the workplace, but without the benefit of a crystal ball this is almost impossible.
Creative parenting expert Nikki Bush, co-author of ‘Future-Proof Your Child’, explains that 60% of the jobs that our children will do, do not exist yet. Because we can’t prepare them for an as yet unknown career path, we have to focus on helping them to develop specific personality traits – Nikki refers to them as X factors for success that will help them to thrive in the future.
Your children will need to be capable of coming up with original ideas and solutions. In a world of media saturation, it’s very easy for children to use other people’s ideas and to express boredom or exhaustion when challenged.
Teach them: Show them that you value their ideas. Give them the opportunity to share what they think, help them to implement their suggestions and involve them in conversations and problem solving.
Your children will need to be flexible and able to take their existing skills and knowledge and adapt them to whatever comes next.
Teach them: If they fall, let them help themselves up. If they meet a challenge, let them solve it on their own. If they are having a meltdown or expressing boredom at any age, don’t pass a screen or device to them. Remember, children get mad, but then they get glad again – usually within half an hour – and that is where resourcefulness starts.
With so much change coming down the line, children will need to keep learning their whole life. Alvin Toffler, author of Future Shock, said, “The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.”
Teach them: Remember that learning happens everywhere, not just in the classroom. Use teachable moments from life to impart knowledge and broaden their skills. Value their questions because asking good questions is sometimes better than knowing the answer. Help them to find the answer before giving it yourself.
For children, self-knowledge is about knowing what’s important to them and knowing their own strengths and weaknesses. Your children will have to have a value system against which to measure the values of the people, brands and organisations they will encounter. And they must know their interests, their unique talents, likes and dislikes to understand where they might find a good fit in the future world of work.
Teach them: Observe your child at play. Very often their talents are revealed not in the classroom or on the sports field, but in the way that they express themselves on the playground, through hobbies or when they are with friends. Celebrate helpfulness, perseverance, consideration and standing up for the rights of others.
The information economy is shifting to the connection economy. People love to connect, and how your children relate to others online and offline will be equally important.
Teach them: Your family is your first team, so be sure to focus on consideration and support at home. Focus on the art of conversation at the dinner table. And encourage school, sporting and cultural activities.
Nikki says that while employers will expect our children to be technologically literate as a matter of course, children pick up these skills very easily both at home and school because they were born wired. What is more challenging and even more essential is to teach children the human capabilities or X-factors we’ve mentioned that will shape a successful future. Being able to combine high-tech skills with the high-touch X-factors will be the ultimate combination for this generation.
“To raise our children to be resilient and resourceful, we have to know when to hold our line on issues (boundaries are essential) and when to let them go, even if it tugs on the heartstrings,” Nikki says. “We are always there to catch or carry them in times of need but it is in the letting go that we create independent, resourceful and resilient children. We need to get that balance right – walking in front of them, walking beside them, and then ultimately walking behind them and watching them take flight.”