By Dr. Daneen Skube
Tribune Content Agency
Q: I have kids and worry about how to prepare them for the work world. How do you suggest parents talk to children about careers, education and goal-setting?
A: I suggest to parents that they have lots of conversations about the difference between social myths and workplace reality. I am doing this with my own kids.
Teach your kids critical thinking. If you can think critically, you are not influenced by the expectations or beliefs of others but think for yourself. Even as an adult, being able to identify what benefits us rather than being swayed by how we look or what others do is powerful.
Good examples are advertising that tells us we must have the next fancy gadget to be happy, or peers that tell us we must spend a lot of money on a wedding, or the idea that at age 18 we must move out and go far away to be educated.
I have a 5-year-old and twin 7-year-olds and we recently did what I call a lifestyle audit. We sat down at the computer and went through a list of what they would need and want when they live on their own. We looked up places to live, priced out cable, cars and groceries. We also talked about banking and credit. We realized even a simple life would cost about $50,000 for each kid.
I gave one of my twin boys a “loan of $10” and told him he had to pay it back with interest. I told him I’d expect him to pay back $2 a month until it was paid. He did the math and said, “No fair I have to give you $20!” I said, “Yup, welcome to banking!” He got mad!
After all this discussion, the kids looked at me and said, “So every year I live at home after high school, I save a lot of money and can save and buy a car with cash.” I was pleased they were starting to think.
As parents we are the most important teachers for our children. We can help them think realistically about the business world. Teaching them interpersonal skills, financial skills, delayed gratification and how to question what people tell them is important. We can show them how to figure out where they want to end up and what they need to do to arrive at that goal.
Even young children can think about what problem they want to solve (jobs), can question what they are told and can learn a work ethic.
If we watch our children’s interests, we can explore careers that use their natural talents. We can teach by example with work we do and decisions we make. We can encourage questioning whether a four-year college out of state makes sense or whether a running start program in high school and a local college would be wiser financially.
You can guarantee the work world will not become less complex by the time our children are adults. But you can guarantee that the habits and skills you give them now will be their best workplace skills to thrive as adults.