The power of the parent
LATELY, I have been thinking a lot about parenting. For so many years my energy has been focused on keeping my young children safe and happy, communicating to them their worth and how loved they are, and supporting their independence.
Now, too soon, they have grown up. My son is living away from home, attending university. My daughter is readying herself to leave the nest as soon as she finishes high school. My friends and I console each other as we shed tears at this letting go.
And we wonder now if we have taught and equipped our children with all the right things. Our children and young people are bombarded with so many messages and there is a sense of volatility in the air, with digital worlds, Donald Trump, climate change, globalisation, and unpredictable futures.
Have we prepared them?
Schools seem to prioritise "knowledge” above everything else.
Or do they? My daughter's school has just sent out a link to Tom Goodwin's essay for the World Economic Forum: "Forget coding, we need to teach our kids how to dream.” It reminds us to remember values.
I was impressed to read it, and to know the school had passed it on to parents to read.
The messages in this essay remind us of the importance of balanced, resilient, self-reliant kids who operate from values that focus on relationships, curiosity, agility, creativity and empathy. Bestselling author Dan Pink in his books, Drive, and A Whole New Mind, emphasises similar words: autonomy, empathy, play, mastery, meaning, and purpose.
Let's look closely at some these words.
Relationships. The modern world with its focus on mobile technology, smart phones, tablets, emails and texts can challenge and limit relationships. Listening to our children, and engaging in actual face to face conversations and interactions together is paramount if we hope to build lasting, trusting, responsive relationships with others. Let's put our phones down. Turn them off. And teach our children about self-regulation and relationships through example.
Curiosity. We can access everything on the internet, and virtual worlds and realities await. But, we are born with a sense of curiosity and wonder. We need to foster and feed this curiosity. Turning off our screens and spending time in nature can reignite a sense of awe and invite new curiosities. Let's get outdoors.
Agility. Resilience and well-being is essential for this world of change and multiple careers. So is flexibility and imagination. A range of strategies then. Communication skills, problem-solving skills, a supportive network of friends and family, and a belief and confidence in ourselves and our ideas.
Creativity. Ken Robinson's TED Talk "do schools kill creativity” reminds us that children have an innate creativity. Yet as we grow up, schooling and testing and jobs dilute our belief that we are creative, offering little space for play or creative thinking. But, it is imagination that will save us. The power of ideas.
Empathy. What is it like to be different? To hope? To live in a divided world? How might empathy build bridges between people? Our homes are places to begin. Caring, supportive environments, places of belonging and compassion. Creating environments where emotional understanding is practised.
As I look over this list, I reflect. I have done my best as a parent. And that is all we can do, our best.