Preparing for the future is a critical and fundamental skill for parents. These five techniques not only prepare your children for the near and far future but they also model behaviors that will help your child deal with future situations as they come up, even without you.
1. Sharing your stories: The dinner table is a great place to do this. Genuine Gestalt sharing from your past helps put them in your shoes and gives them models for managing certain situations.
The key to sharing your stories is to do it often and not always with an agenda.
The art of telling your stories to prepare them for the future is calibrating the story to what they need at their current age. Go deep. Focus on the process, the mistakes, the “aha!” moments and the lessons. Be vulnerable and share mistakes and regrets and their impact on your life. I did this recently. I told my two sons about the impact of drinking in my twenties. It wasn't easy, and the message hit home for them.
2. Scaffolding: Just like around buildings, you can put scaffolding around your child or children as they learn to do things on their own. I used this recently to have my two sons walk to the grocery store alone.
For example, wouldn't it be great if they could walk to the neighbor's alone? First, have them lead you there. The next time, walk behind them. Finally, follow way behind them. Focus on developing incremental skills and confidence in your children over time. Only you say when they are ready to remove the scaffolds and do it on their own!
3. Repetitive conversations: This one is easy. If you want them to learn something, talk to them about it a lot. Repetition if your friend when it comes to the human brain. Don’t want your children to try drugs? Talk to them about addiction and the impact that drugs can have. Share real life examples from the news, from your life, and from research. For important topics, do this over and over again, even when their eye roll.
4. Front loading: Right before you do something, tell them what will happen and what you expect of them. Ask them questions to assess and to further deepen their understanding. Make agreements if needed. A simple example might be that you are all in the car about to go into a church. Who is going where, what will you do, how should you act, and what happens after are all great discussion points before getting out of the car.
5. Visualization: Athletes, business leaders, politicians, and students all use this technique to prepare for and even help design their future. Our brains are 80% dedicated to visual processing (probably because for the vast majority of our existence we had no language or writing to clutter up our minds).
Visualization is as simple as guiding your child to think about situations visually. Everything from walking to the store to how it looks to kick the ball in the goal is fair game.
Want to hear more about these five techniques? Listen to the Attuned Family podcast that Cristina Trette and I did on the subject. Check it out here.
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