Empowering Children to Become Contributing Members of Society
Written by Lindsay Sealey
For many, watching the news for even five minutes launches us into panic and overwhelm. With instant access to news through 24-hour news channels, digital newspapers, and social media, we are inundated with the top headlines that seem to go from bad to worse. Having 24/7 accessibility to news is helpful for staying informed, but it can also induce fear and worry, especially when it comes to news that affects the future of your children.
I have yet to meet a parent that isn’t concerned about the health and happiness of their child. Parents are united in the desire to have their kids feel loved and accepted as well as skilled, productive, balanced, and prepared for their future.
Many parents and caregivers wonder how they can equip and empower their children today to meet the increasing demands of tomorrow and to become informed and contributing members of society, without the news cycle overwhelm.
Remember, this generation of children and youth already have more choices and opportunities than generations before them. They can be anything they want to be. However, our children will also inherit more problems, pressures, and expectations than we’ve had before. Preparing our children for their future isn’t something you can do in a day. It takes intention, effort, and your dedication.
That’s why you can start right now, while your children are young. To get your kids ready for the 21st-century world, here are some steps you can take to teach them how to contribute to society in the future.
Step 1: See the world through their eyes
Looking at the world through their eyes and help them take small steps towards responsibility and independence. Kids are naturally filled with wonder and curiosity. They see the world as both big and scary and an exciting adventure! Help them to focus on the latter.
Encourage them to try new activities, solve problems with little or no help, and make their own choices. Instead of seeing the entire world, let’s start with their world. What can they do to become more responsible for their own actions?
- Can your child try to eat a new food?
- Can they independently work on a new puzzle?
- Can they choose what to wear every day?
Yes, yes, and yes! Focus on small, daily actions, taking one step at a time.
Step 2: Emphasize skills and developing their passions
Emphasize the importance of skills and trying everything to find something they love most. When kids learn how to do things (chores, ordering their own food, playing an instrument, tricky math questions) they learn they can do new or previously hard things. There is no greater way to build confidence than to nurture competence.
Think about helping them build an eclectic tool kit of skills including soft, transferrable skills like listening, communicating, and compromising and hard skills like construction or computer coding. The author of the article, 8 Ways Parents Can Plan for Their Child’s Future, reminds us that, “While, of course, extracurricular activities aren’t the end-all-be-all of planning for your child’s future, they can help your child figure out what they like and remind them to work hard and stay committed to their goals.” As they learn and grow their skills, practice high-fiving and hugging them for effort more than the outcome.
Step 3: Explain that happiness is on the inside
Talk with your children about how happiness is an inside job. The world will pressure your children to chase after success and prove their achievements and accomplishments (and their self-worth) on the outside. Setting and reaching goals is a beneficial life skill, but the drawback comes when accolades and advances become the only marker of success.
Talk about inside success too—nurturing their sense of self-finding calm, confidence, and inner peace. Help them understand themselves and what makes them happy, wants vs needs, treating themselves with kindness and compassion, and feeling good about being a good person.
When kids see they have what it takes to be happy on the inside, the outside achievements are going to happen easier, and they will feel better.
Step 4: Imagine, explore, experiment, and expand
It’s all about discovery—without limits. Kids are motivated by the question, “What do you really want to do?” Children can be brave, take risks, and grow, but may need a nudge to step out of their comfort zones.
Follow their lead and their interests. They are in charge. Whether they are fascinated with baking or bugs, support them with questions, and empower them with information—this is where Google and Siri come in handy. As you can, supply them with the tools and equipment they need to conduct their “experiments.”
Encourage them to make mistakes and talk with your children about what they can learn from them. When they experience falling and failing, they let loose of their fear and have the opportunity to learn and grow more compared to if they played it safe.
Step 5: Instill the importance of giving back
Teach your children the power of giving back and making a difference in the lives of others. Sometimes, especially as a child, life is all about “just me,” but remind them to be mindful of others and look for ways to turn the conversation from “me” to “we.”
Giving can be as simple as donating their old toys when they have outgrown or outplayed them or something bigger like raising funds for a cause they care about. Kids can give in any way they choose, and they can learn the gifts of generosity, care, compassion, and empathy.
As I journey alongside parents to support their children, I often use the expression “good things take time.” Planning and preparing for the future isn’t instant or easy. But, to meet the demands of your children’s tomorrow, now is the time to start.
Lindsay Sealey, BA, MA Ed, is the author of the award-winning books Growing Strong Girls: Practical Tools to Cultivate Connection in the Preteen Years and Rooted, Resilient, and Ready now available on Amazon and Audible. She is the founder and CEO of Bold New Girls and Brave New Boys and an instructor with Udemy.