Does my child have a future in South Africa? This is a question that plagues many of us and, why wouldn’t it? We live in a country facing multiple challenges and the view that the grass is greener on the other side is constantly punted in media. Families are emigrating on a daily basis and every time that loadshedding switch is hit and we are plunged into darkness, all these negative thoughts are cemented.
We’ve all been to social gatherings where ‘that’ conversation is brought up by someone deep in their despair about the state of the country, where they cannot express enough how our children have no future here.
These types of conversations come to mind as I come across the umpteenth post on social media, written by an anxiety-ridden mom who is at a loss as to what to do with her demotivated school leaver.
How many of these demotivated, often seen as lazy and entitled, teenagers are feeling completely hopeless after having to listen to conversation after conversation about the lack of opportunity this country holds for them? Why would you want to put in the effort and study when everyone around you believes it will lead to unemployment? We need to pause and take notice of the conversations we are having around our children and think about the messages we are unconsciously feeding them.
We also need to change the way we think about our children’s future.
Benjamin Franklin once said, “Out of adversity comes opportunity.” For a country with so many problems, there comes the opportunity to create businesses that solve these problems. South Africa is a mecca for innovation and entrepreneurship and if we can arm our children with the necessary skills for entrepreneurial success, we can offer them the world.
Even if your child sees no future for themselves as an entrepreneur the skills needed cross over with the skills needed to navigate a future in which millions of jobs are being replaced by technology and millions of new, previously unheard-of jobs are being created. Regardless of which path they follow, they will need to:
Be emotionally intelligent
Possess leadership skills
Have good time management
Soft skills have become more relevant and are valued in the workplace and we need to work on growing them in our children while they are still young. Not only do we need to teach them, but we also need to model them for our kids.
How can we start to foster these skills in our children daily? Here are a few ideas:
Let them be bored, boredom triggers mind-wandering, and mind-wandering leads to creativity
Let them have their screen time, so they can be tech-savvy. We can feel better about screen time if we make sure the content is meaningful For example, they can watch and do exercise videos, follow kids' art hub tutorials, play games like Minecraft or Roblox (offline, for safety reasons) or they can watch videos that introduce them to different parts of life.
Get them to make choices so that they can flex their critical thinking skills, even from a young age you can start with questions like “do you want to wear the red shirt or the green one?” and as they get older and the choices more complex you can ask for their reasoning.
Teach them empathy. From, a young age you can start to use stories to prompt questions about how each character may feel about a given scenario. Empathy is one of the key emotional skills needed for the future.
Model flexibility. Share times in your day when you had to make different choices to what you had initially planned. When your child is being rigid help them come up with alternatives.
Schedules are great for teaching time management skills. You can even use a timer for tasks like brushing their teeth or showering.
Not everyone is afforded the opportunity to emigrate or study abroad and we need to make our children aware that their future can be bright no matter where they may find themselves. South Africa has so much to offer if we just look for the light at the end of the loadshedded tunnel.