“What do you want to be when you grow up?”
It’s a trickier question than it used to be. Some predict that our current technological revolution means nearly a third of the world’s future jobs don’t exist today. This isn’t difficult to imagine. Concepts such as virtual reality, augmented reality and artificial intelligence have changed everything from video games to healthcare in the blink of an eye. Those with an Amazon Echo or Echo Dot in their homes might notice just how fast AI — a concept once limited to technologists — has become an everyday aide.
For parents, this poses a difficult task: raising your kids to adapt and thrive in a future world requiring yet-unknown needs and capabilities. It’s an odd reality that your child’s first job might be something you’ve never heard of. With this kind of fast-paced change ahead, children need to be comfortable with ambiguity and ready to learn on the fly. Parents, you’re the ones who can get them there.
Parenting in a time of constant flux
Tomorrow’s workers need 21st-century skills. Human traits such as critical thinking, communication, creativity and collaboration represent the building blocks of preparedness for rapid changes in technology and life.
At the heart of these skills lies one: problem-solving. New technology fills old needs and creates new ones, producing new challenges along the way. If children develop a problem-solving mindset early on, tackling these challenges in the future won’t seem as daunting — even if the problems themselves are new.
I remember a moment with my son, Blake, when he was young. We were resting after a hike when I considered how interesting it would be to design an eco-friendly home. I started asking him questions about our imaginary house: How could we make it sustainable? Where would we build it? What would the rooms be like? What additions would allow residents to thrive? We pondered over these questions, and I reined in the conversation when it got off track.
Diving into open-ended questions such as these requires children to think critically and creatively. In the process, they’ll develop a mindset geared toward problem-solving. This also helps them think about the technology and tools we have at hand in hypothetical scenarios, which makes them more comfortable with these concepts. Children with the right skills and some technological know-how will have all they need to face an exciting future.
Prepping children for uncertainty
By taking small steps, your children will naturally adopt a problem-solving mindset and a healthy relationship with technology. Here are a few tips for parents looking to encourage these traits in their children:
Learn the art of learning itself.
The truth is that we don’t know what information children will need to know in the future, but we know they’ll have to learn constantly (and often on the fly). You can help them by understanding how to truly retain information and incorporating that skill into your parenting.
Try interval exposure: the idea that when a person sees new information repeatedly at different intervals, it improves recall. In parenting, this could be something as simple as asking children to describe the characters, plot and setting of a movie you saw within the past day. Ask these questions a few days later, a week later, and so on. This is a fun game for kids, but it also teaches them a powerful method of retaining information.
Keep breaking patterns.
Your children will have to be adaptable in order to succeed in the world of tomorrow. One of the best ways to achieve that is to get them comfortable with ambiguity and small changes. I call this a “pattern breaker” — examining everyday routines and shaking them up.
If you occasionally dine out, visit different restaurants. In fact, have your child spin a globe and touch it with his or her finger to stop it. Find a restaurant that serves food from the nearest country.
Do you start every Saturday morning with the standard breakfast and cartoons? Instead, grab the book “Vocabulary Cartoons” and learn 10 new words with memorable mnemonics. Use those words during the week at different intervals.
As insignificant as some of these small new experiences might seem, they prepare your kids to be more comfortable with larger shifts down the road.
Make kids comfortable with technology.
If one thing is clear for the future, it’s that today’s children will depend more on intelligent technology, both at home and at work. If children never see new technology in the home or understand what it does, it might seem foreign to them later.
Do you use intelligent agents such as Amazon Alexa? Beyond using these tools to check the weather or schedule reminders, interact with them in fun ways. Ask your kids to find new ways to use devices or experiment with them, as they’re updated frequently.
We all want the best possible future for our kids, even if that future doesn’t look clear right now. Uncertainty might seem intimidating, but it tells you exactly what to prepare children for change. Children who grow up to be adaptive, perpetual learners will be ready to face new challenges and concepts down the line. Even today, you have all the tools needed to get them there.