Every Thursday I volunteer in a local school as a Big Sister with 4 other women mentoring a group of 13 year olds. Each session begins with “High’s and Low’s,” an opportunity to share a high point and low point of the week. It serves as a way to break the ice and offer support where needed. Thursday’s high’s and low’s struck a chord with me as I heard half the girls talk about how much stress they are under. Stressed because a boyfriend is “cheating” (at 13 years old!), stressed because a grandmother is sick in the hospital with cancer and stressed and brought to tears because one is struggling with her team project in social studies and she fears getting an F as a result.
As I listened I flashed back to my own experience at 13 – the stress, upset, fear and anxiety that comes with being a teen. How did I cope? Not very well because coping skills were not part of my at school or at home curriculum. As I think about the skills I really need to thrive and survive today, I’ll call them “life skills”, I didn’t learn them in school. This experience got me thinking about things I wish I learned in school or at least at a younger age to prepare me for life. Here are a few topics that would have been really helpful to know about before I hit adulthood:
Confidence – Often when the girls in the Big Sister group speak, their heads are literally resting on the table or they have their hands covering their faces. They cover up their beauty because they don’t see it. I remember doing the same.
Stress management – like how to deal with illness, crisis, teasing from fellow students, sleepless nights and bad grades. Not to mention the embarrassment of getting my first pair of glasses in the 4th grade.
Communication – including how to relate and talk to friends, family, boys, teachers (which would have helped in the business world). Asking for help, making requests (like “I have a request. Please stop teasing me”), giving and receiving feedback and group presentations.
Authenticity – Earlier on Thursday morning I attended a business networking event and the speaker left us with this message for success: Be Yourself. This is a popular message today for adults, and perhaps it’s time to allow young folks the opportunity, too. Maybe then as an adult they can focus their energy on things other than “finding themselves”.
Financial intelligence – like what I need to know about mortgages, retirement plans and investments instead of sending me off to college believing that if I sign up for a credit card, cash will be readily available!
These may never make it to a school curriculum, but they cannot be ignored. As stress increases with the younger generation I think what can I do to help? How can I teach them these skills in an effort to make their life a little more manageable? For starters, I volunteer my time with groups like Big Sisters and I do my best to encourage and educate my niece and nephew with information that I know. Small steps, little by little make all the difference.
What do you wish they taught in school that might make life a little easier today? And how are you sharing and teaching the younger generation these skills?