Learning 21st Century Skills – What Role Can Parents Play?

By Geetanjali Padoshi

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In the previous part of the series we delved into the categorisation of 21st century skills and their importance. The next logical question would be – What can be done to make kids learn these skills? This article looks at various ways that parents can adopt to facilitate an atmosphere conducive to learn these skills.

We as parents always want to provide the best of everything to our kids. It is our constant endeavor to make them aware of their surroundings and provide opportunities to learn. All these efforts are nothing but a part of making our kids learn new things, form opinions and be an informed child.

It would help however, to make conscious efforts to take structured steps to equip our kids to face today’s ever changing world. Simple steps done on a regular basis would help achieve this.

  1. Let the child’s interests drive the interactions – Kids have a mind of their own. Their affinities or interests would vary depending on the environment, personality and available resources. Gauging the area of interest and indulging in interactions around it would help the child learn 21st century skills.For eg. a child may be interested in plants. Parents could encourage the child to do activities like leaf painting, watch a documentary or animation on plants, visit a garden or play a game of identifying different types of plants.
  2. Participative Approach – One of the most important 21st century skills is communication and collaboration. It is imperative that we include kids in activities of various kinds and varied groups for their skill development. For example, involving kids in household chores helps them realize that all tasks are important. Interactions with their friends, family members, grandparents help them learn to communicate with different age groups.
  3. Learning by doing – As parents we often tend to go overboard in trying to give the best to kids. While the intention is understandable, it is detrimental to their development. Allow the kids to learn by doing things themselves, let them fail and learn. Practical approach to doing things would make them learn creativity, critical and logical thinking.
  4. Reward Curiosity – We get tired of answering questions by our kids. It can be overwhelming. Yet, this trait of kids needs to be nurtured. A curious child would automatically become a solution seeker, problem solver and critical thinker, all are needed to survive today.
  5. Allow them to create a schedule – We often feel that kids need to have a time bound schedule to pursue the different activities. It’s more so for adolescents and teens. Parents need to give the kids freedom to decide what they want to do and when. It is often the parental fear that kids would indulge only in recreational activities and essentials would be left behind. This may not be true. Allowing them to create their own schedule helps them learn time management skills . They understand the importance of decision making and its consequences.
  6. The digitally literate parent – With the ever changing digital world around us, kids do not have any other option but to adapt to it. They might not be aware of all its pitfalls . That is where a digitally literate parent would help them navigate. In order to make our kids learn 21st century skills, we must equip ourselves with the knowledge of the same. While this may not be possible for all, it must be done to the maximum possible extent. One of the ways of doing so is learning with them.This helps them understand that learning is a lifelong process. They also open up more to us when they see us acknowledging our willingness to accept that we do not know and learn.

There are no set approaches to make today’s kids ready for tomorrow. Every parent takes an approach that he / she feels would yield maximum results. The paths chosen may be different, yet the goal remains the same – a happy and positive child who learns about oneself while exploring different things, understands the surroundings and the changing paradigms. A child who is ready to adapt to changes, seek answers, put on a creative hat and look at things from a whole new perspective.

It is certainly not a walk in the park. There are many unknown variables, known constraints, fears and dogmas that need to be dealt with. Despite all this, we must not forget that with the changing times our responsibility towards our kids is changing too. We must do our best to ensure that they learn these skills and be ready to face all that comes their way. Let us not be the parents who teach them to live the life as we perceive. Let us be the parent who teaches them to live a life that they believe in! In order for this to happen they need to equip themselves with the new age skill sets!

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