Developing skills and abilities
Your children’s skills and abilities will be their most valuable asset throughout their lives. Skills are behaviors that we can learn and improve through practice. Every day, students are learning and practicing skills as they also increase their knowledge in the subjects they study. Abilities are closely related to skills – they are natural talents. We tend to think of singing as an ability because people are born with good voices and typing as a skill because it can be learned. Some of our strongest skills, however, are really well developed (practiced) talents.
In this Web site’s overview about why your children should explore careers, building foundation skills is discussed. Understanding what skills and abilities they have and what skills and abilities they need to reach their dreams is an important component of your children’s career development. Building their skill set and being able to talk about that skill set are key strategies for success in the 21st Century workforce.
As a parent, you can help your children learn about skills and abilities – their own and those that are used by others. You can help them develop a vocabulary of skill words. “I am honest, reliable, and organized. I can use the computer for word processing and spread sheets. I work well with others and can coordinate activities of groups. I am good at gathering and evaluating information. I have a high attention to detail.” Understanding that they have skills, that these skills are valued by others, and that they can develop the skills that they enjoy using contributes to self-esteem and motivation.
What kinds of skills should my child develop?
Skills can be categorized in many different ways. One helpful way to break them apart is to look at them as:
- Employability skills. Skills that are needed by all workers, regardless of job, work setting, or industry. These include good work habits and other personal qualities, basic reading, writing and math skills, and thinking skills that are required to perform any type of work effectively.
- Transferable skills. Skills that are used in many different work settings by different kinds of workers. They can be transferred from one line of work to another.
- Technical or job specific skills. Skills that are very specific to a particular activity, job, or industry. For example, the technical skills for a plumber include installing and soldering pipes.
During elementary years through high school, your children are primarily developing employability and transferable skills. At the youngest ages, they begin developing their employability skills as they learn individual responsibility, self-esteem, sociability, self-management, and integrity. They are also building basic skills required for functioning in any work situation through what they learn in school – reading, writing, arithmetic and mathematics, speaking, and listening, thinking creatively, making decisions, solving problems, reasoning, and knowing how to learn.
In fact the Oregon Board of Education requires that all students demonstrate important employability skills in order to receive a high school diploma. These are called the career-related learning standards; they incorporate personal management, teamwork, communication, problem solving, employment, foundations, and career development. You can help your children develop these skills by turning daily activities into opportunities for learning. Household chores, volunteering, and part-time work provide excellent opportunities to develop skills, especially those all important self-management skills. By focusing on the importance of these skills, you also teach that all work is important, necessary, and valuable.
How can I help my child with problem solving skills?
Problem solving involves math and thinking skills. Demonstrate an interest in mathematics and make math and problem-solving a part of the family routine. Here are some everyday activities that can help build them:
- Cook together. Have your children follow a recipe. Explain fractions and measurements while cooking.
- Shop together. Illustrate percentages with pennies and dollars. Have your children check the grocery receipt, and calculate prices.
- Travel together. Have your children act as the navigators on a family outing. Play simple games such as “how far is it?” Keep a chart of daily temperatures to help plan for a family vacation.
- Play games together. Have your children learn the rules of a game by reading and enforcing directions. (For more ideas, see University of Oregon College of Education professor, Dave Moursund’s book, Introduction to Using Games in Education: A Guide for Teachers and Parents, online at http://darkwing.uoregon.edu/~moursund/Books/Games/Games.pdf)
- Do projects together. Have your children build a model or assemble store purchases by following directions and using schematics.
- Involve them in routine home maintenance work. Involve your children in family decisions. Have your children anticipate and experience the consequences of a decision.
How can I help my child with communication skills?
Communication includes reading, writing, listening, and speaking. Keep lots of quality reading material around the house. Make visits to the library part of your family routine. Point out that pleasurable reading comes from good writing. Here are some ideas to develop better communicators:
- Read to your children. Spend 20 minutes a day reading to preschoolers. Have older children read to you or take turns reading to younger siblings. Let your children see you read at least 20 minutes a day.
- Encourage good listening. Discuss the content of what you or they have read. Tell stories and have children re-tell them in detail.
- Play games that involve writing, speaking, and listening. Charades requires non-verbal skills.
- Encourage writing. Expect that your children will write letters and thank you notes to relatives and friends. Make sure your children have writing materials, such as journals and diaries, available.
How can I help my child with teamwork?
Teams are not only important on the athletic field. All aspects of life require people to work effectively as members of teams. Think of your family as a team, and use some of these ideas:
- Build your family team. Involve children in family discussions or decisions, as appropriate for their age and maturity level.
- Work together. Give kids important jobs to do within the family or work on chores together.
- Practice conflict resolution. Teach them to get along with others by modeling good teamwork and conflict resolution.
- Learn together. Emphasize the learning that takes place in groups, whether on school projects or team activities like sports, music, theater, or volunteering.
How can I help my child with other employment foundations?
Employment requires understanding and using tools and technology, working in organizations and systems, and following procedures. You can begin building these skills at home by:
- Do projects that require many steps, use of tools,
procedures, such as:
- Cook together. Have your children read recipes and measure ingredients.
- Do laundry. Have your children sort items of clothing according to color, read washing instructions, measure detergent and time wash cycles.
- Go grocery shopping. Have your children write shopping lists, compare food prices, make change, and identify and classify food items.
- Fix the family photo album. Have your children sort pictures, write labels for each photo and write a story about some of the photos.
- Organize the house. Have your child sortren items in a "junk drawer," label them and arrange them alphabetically.
- Talk about products and services you use. Introduce your children to all aspects of work; including technology, business, artistic, social and customer service perspectives.
- Discuss new technologies and how they change our lives. Discuss ways to improve products, processes and services with your children. Encourage your children to brainstorm solutions to technical and human problems.