Here at Skip the Box and robinmassey.com, I teach skills for thriving independently to high school and college students. This past school year I went to several high schools and ran various workshops: creating solid resumes and interviewing competently, handling stress effectively, and opening the conversation about personal finances. From feedback, the workshops were well-received; teens (and teachers) said the info was useful and thought-provoking. Parents I spoke with said such life skills were important and needed, things they wanted their kids to learn.
So I created more in-depth workshops, shared them, and heard back: crickets.
Huh? I guess a mark was missed. I spent the summer mulling and pondering on what.
After the summer and into the new school year some light bulbs have gone on. Yes, I made various mistakes on the business end, though that’s a topic for a different conversation. Of relevance here? It hit me that these teens didn’t truly and actually care yet about most of these topics (or if they did care, it wasn’t yet enough to put effort into learning more). Other things were higher priorities on their current plates. While they may agree that these are things they need to learn for the future, not knowing the info right now isn’t yet a pain point requiring their attention. And the more I pondered this, the more I realized that I felt the same way when I was 17, 18, 19.
Periodically I might have thought about the life skills I needed to learn (how to manage my money, how insurance worked, how to navigate finding jobs to build a career I enjoyed), but they weren’t yet high enough on my priority list to do anything about; they weren’t causing me pain right now. I had other things I cared more about or that felt like bigger shoulds to focus on so that’s where my focus went.
Sure, as an adult (and parent) it’s easy to look back and see what might have been useful to learn more (or less) about in my young adulthood. However, that’s from my adult perspective today with the learning I’ve done (or had to do) to get a handle (at least to some respect) on adulting. I didn’t have this perspective then. I have it now BECAUSE I didn’t have it then and had to learn.
As a parent, I’d like to save my kids from the worst of the growing pains I experienced. However, this summer reminded me that I can’t for much of it — growing pains offer learning lessons, and they will have their own sorts of growing pains (no one escapes them). And, in forcing information and learning before they’re ready? That in itself results in more pain for them and added pain for me. So probably not worth it. While I know now that some life skills would be useful to get sooner than later, my kids learning in their own time — even if it’s not the time I’d recommend or hope — isn’t wrong. It’s simply their time. I can fight it or not.
Now, this isn’t to say that there isn’t value in planting seeds. There absolutely is. Offering to help talk through building a budget or how to come across thoughtful and confident in an interview? I’m going to do it. I’m going to offer. If I find the offer returns crickets? I’m going to let it be for now. The offer is a seed and by offering I’ve planted it. And that is enough for right now. Then in a few weeks or months, I’ll try and offer again and see what happens. Maybe they’ll be ready then.
So going into this school year? Yes, I’m going to keep offering seeds via periodic workshops at local high schools. I find it fun and at least some of the students I’ve worked with seem to find them useful. However, as my main focus of helping our teens thrive this year? Parents and caring adults supporting teens — let’s focus on building our own skills for thriving. Because a super effective way to support our teens thrive just might be thriving ourselves.