By Nicole Lipkin
Our children face a whole new set of challenges compared to what we faced growing up.
From harassment and violence in schools, to cyberbullying, to the alarmingly high volume of inappropriate content on the internet, these negative influences are having a lasting impact on the psychological well-being of kids. They also have a lasting impact on us, as parents, because of how complicated and confusing it is to guide, advise and parent around these difficult situations.
To drive the point home, research has found that this generation of youth is more vulnerable to mental illness and other negative outcomes.
Ultimately, children’s coping skills (as well as our own) are being challenged daily and, as parents, it is important that we help build and fortify these skills early on. In fact, research shows that it’s high competency in soft skills – self-awareness, empathy, compassion – that are most predictive of long-term interpersonal, professional and lifelong success.
Think of these soft skills as little suits of armor providing powerful coping skills when things go awry with themselves or others. Soft skills are skills like strong communication skills, self-management, growth mindset, social-awareness, relationship skills, judgment and decision-making skills, just to name a few. They are not only critical for children, they are critical for all of us and serve as a protective force in our self-development and day to day functioning.
The good news is that these skills can develop and strengthen throughout a lifetime, it just takes work, modeling, and reinforcement both at school and at home. So, what can you do?
First and foremost, check with your school to see if they have a socio-emotional program and if they don’t, encourage the school to consider incorporating a program into the curriculum.
Many teachers have noted the need for more socio-emotional curriculum, yet the millions of funding dollars continue to go to programs that support the core curriculum subjects: mathematics, reading, science, and social studies. Not to downplay the importance of these core curriculum subjects, but we also need to start paying more attention to programs geared toward emotional intelligence.
Second, pay attention to how you are modeling behavior at home. Our children are sponges and pick up on our quirks, anxieties, reactions, and behaviors. Pay attention to how you are coping with difficult situations and try, when possible, to model what you would want your child to demonstrate.
Third, when you can’t model what you want to model (and isn’t that the case for all of us sometimes?), then chat about that openly with your child. Conversations about attitudes and behaviors that you aren’t proud of are some of the most useful and important to have with your child. These dialogues encourage self-awareness, self-reflection, and humility, three of the foundational skills necessary for soft skill development and a large coping skills toolbox to use when needed.
Last but not least, help your child build a daily habit of soft skill practice. This is the mission behind the Young Leader Project. This educational curriculum, designed for young people ages 7-11, focuses on helping parents (and schools) strengthen children’s leadership soft skills to help build and develop their lifelong leadership potential.
The program challenges young leaders to apply the newly learned leadership skills in their everyday environments. Adult caregivers and educators are also encouraged to reinforce these skills by modeling and practicing what the child learns within the home and at school. This program was created and developed by psychologists and educators and the curriculum is based on cutting-edge psychological, developmental, leadership, and educational research.
To begin building your young leader’s leadership potential, click on this link to access a bonus Young Leader Project activity to complete with your child. This What Are My Superpowers activity helps your young leader identify their unique strengths and ways they can use them to be a great leader.
The Young Leader Project is all about helping children develop the prosocial soft skills they need to lead happy and successful personal and professional lives. The program can be accessed via an online virtual platform or through a box set which includes workbooks and supplies. The activities are intended to increase positive personal and professional development, and to build participants’ leadership competencies and coping skills.
The developers behind this revolutionary leadership program for children are trained as psychologists, with a mission to help young people develop the behaviors and skills that are linked to general well-being. To further this, they are also leadership development experts, who see the importance of developing leadership skills that help tomorrow’s leaders understand themselves, as well as make a positive impact on those around them as they grow into adults.
To learn more about the Young Leader Project, visit www.youngleaderproject.com. We are still in beta testing phase so if you would like to be part of our testing, visit www.youngleaderproject.com/beta to sign up.
Our team at the Young Leader Project will be writing regularly for Phillytweens.com to help you learn about different and creative ways to help build your child’s soft skills.
Dr. Nicole Lipkin is a clinical and organizational psychologist specializing in leadership development, executive coaching, and organizational development. She is the founder of the Young Leader Project, CEO of Equilibria Leadership Consulting and Equilibria Psychological and Consultation Services, and the author of the popular business book What Keeps Leaders Up At Night.