School is cancelled for at least a month. This is a great opportunity to push the pause button on worrying about long division and geometry (sorry to those I am offending – if it makes you feel better there is a laundry list of topics I could have used instead) and take this opportunity to teach our children life skills.
Obviously what you should teach will vary based on age and sometimes maturity level. Some things that have come to mind in the first couple days with the kids home from school are listed below. It’s a brief list meant to get us thinking about teaching our kids skills that will benefit them their entire lives. Think about those things you struggled with when you got out on your own or learned the hard way a time or two. Pass those lessons on now while you have the time and more importantly their attention. The point is to start thinking about the opportunity we have to teach our kids the skills they will need to thrive (or simply survive) in the world.
Budgeting – I am not sure there is anything more important than financial budgeting. Budgeting gives you control over your finances. It makes every purchasing decision relevant as it relates to your overall financial situation. Budgeting = Discipline; Discipline = Freedom. I cannot recommend this one strong enough.
Hard Work and Sacrifice – Kids need to understand that nothing comes without hard work and sacrifice. If you are willing to do those two things there is not much you can’t accomplish. On the other end of the spectrum, they should be taught what doors close if you don’t work hard in this world. All the things we take for granted are not going to be there if they don’t work hard – everything has a cost. I want to ensure I put my kids out in the world with a strong sense of reality versus a thinking that magically they will have all the same things dad has.
Add Value – Doing what you are told is good, but not remarkable. Doing the things not expected of you is what is important. Those things lighten the load for others and add value in so many ways. I live by the motto “See it – Do it”. Your future spouse and employer will thank me later.
Fairness and Responsibility – This is an exceptional time to discuss how life is not fair. Everybody has lost something at this point. Kids have lost school time, all extracurricular activities, play dates, and on and on. They should be bummed about this. They will likely start feeling sorry for themselves and what they are missing. They need to understand there will be times in their life when things simply don’t work out or go as planned. They need to know how to work through them and it is our responsibility to help them understand they are responsible for how they feeling – no one else. Now is the time to eliminate the victim mentality!
You are not the Center of the Universe (and Neither am I) – This idea seems to be non-existent in our culture today. Kids run the show. They dictate most family activities, meals, and so on. This is significantly more power than a child is capable of handling and we adults put them in that position without thought. Teach kids what they can offer the world, instead of what they can take from it.
Hearing No – They are going to hear no and get rejected often throughout their lives. We have an opportunity to help them work through this rejection by telling them no in a safe environment (ideally with a thoughtful explanation as well).
Car Maintenance – We spend a ton of time in our vehicles and place a heavy reliance on them. We should know how to handle basic maintenance. Things like changing a tire, changing a headlight, and changing the oil come to mind. These improve independence and save a ton of money at the same time!
Grow Something – We don’t understand where our food comes from. It just magically exists at the grocery store whenever we want it. Actually growing your own food, even a small amount, gives you a better appreciation for how amazing the land is and why we need to take care of it. This too is another example where you could be a little more independent and save some cash. I find great joy and satisfaction out of growing things.
Meal Preparation – Another easy way to be more independent and save money is knowing how to feed yourself, and I am not talking about microwave meals and potato chips. Learning how to cook (even just the basics) is a skill that will serve you well your entire life.
Portion Control – From an early age we are told to “clean our plates” and so on. That doesn’t serve us very well as we age, portions grow, and our activity level declines. We should be teaching our kids that feeling “full” is not a good thing and feeling “hungry” is not a bad thing. We should teach our kids that the amount of food they really need is far less than what culture tells them. They should listen to their bodies instead. Oh, and stop with all the snacking.
Cleaning – Leave the place better than you found it. This is a simple one and speaks to responsibility. Take care of yourself, clean up your own messes.
Open Up – Now is a great time to reconnect with your kids. Get to know them and let them get to know you at a deeper level. If you have older kids, I think this is incredibly important. Now would be a great time to talk about the mistakes you have made in your life, the consequences, and how you moved forward. I want my kids to see me as super – human. I hyphenate that word because there are two distinct meanings there. I want them to know I am human. I work hard every day to provide for my family. I have good days and bad days. I swear when I shouldn’t. I overreact. I screw up. But I own it, try to fix it, and move on. I do want them to see me as superhuman though. I want them to trust that their dad has their back and will provide a safe environment for them to grow up in.
We really need to take advantage of this opportunity we have in front of us. We have our kids attention for some period of time and should ensure we don’t waste it. It’s likely the world goes right back to the way it was in the coming months, but there does exist a chance that we are embarking on a way of living we haven’t experienced before. It the latter ends up coming to fruition the more independent and self sufficient we all are the better. Be responsible and be accountable!!!
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