Shifting With The Landscape

The pace of change is accelerating. How do we best equip and “future-proof” our children for our continually shifting world?

It’s no news that the pace of change is accelerating. The amount of information available at our fingertips, the ways we communicate and interact with the world, the development of technology and AI – it’s overwhelming. I find it more challenging each year to keep up with the changes personally and professionally. How then, as a parent, am I supposed to prepare my kids for the future – one that I myself don’t feel prepared for?

About eight weeks ago, I received a call from the principal at my kids’ school inviting me to participate in the strategic planning process for our school district. Apparently once every five years, a group of administrators, principals, teachers, and parents gather to determine what key issues the district will focus on. Despite it being an open invitation, parental involvement tends to be somewhat limited due to the heavy time commitment. As such, she was reaching out to a few parents to personally invite them in. I felt honored to receive her phone call, and it piqued my curiosity. Besides, I had a vested interest given we have three young kids (including an infant) who would keep us in this district for quite some time. I accepted the invitation.

When I arrived, I saw a few familiar faces – two teachers that I knew, as well as our principal. The facilitators assigned us seats, so that each table would consist of representatives of varying “roles” across the district. My table included a principal, a school counselor, a teacher, a board member, and a district staff member.

On the first evening, we were presented with the macro trends and major shifts taking place in our landscape. Our job was to decide which ones to prioritize in terms of adapting the educational experience. After aligning on which issues we deemed critical, the subsequent discussions focused on our aspirations for our kids and the competencies we felt would support these goals in context of those issues.

Discussion during one of our evening sessions yesterday. The process is still ongoing and will conclude at the end of the school year.

As tiring as the sessions were (multiple 3-hour long meetings during evenings after a full work day), I found the process informative and reassuring, as I appreciated how the group was approaching it so thoughtfully.

But what I found most helpful was that this process also provoked me to consider my own focus areas as a parent. While my husband and I have always been clear on our parenting vision and the values we want to instill in our kids, were our current parenting methods and commitments aligned with building the skills we believed would be most important?

Upon our own personal reflection, these are the issues we feel are critical to ready our kids for, as well as the corresponding skills we believe are necessary to prepare them*:

  • The advancement in technology and knowledge formation will continue to accelerate. Change isn’t something we will experience through different seasons or every few years; it will (or already has) become continuous. As a result, the capacity and motivation to keep learning will enable them to persist in adapting to the rapid change.

  • The amount of information and misinformation is growing exponentially. And as AI continues to improve, it will only grow more difficult to discern what is and isn’t real (case in point yesterday: Balenciaga Pope). The ability to think critically, evaluate, and analyze will be a crucial to ensuring they stay grounded in truth while forming sound conclusions.

  • In spite of all its benefits, technology is rendering the world more impersonal. Factors from social media to remote work are leading to greater social disconnectedness and isolation from others. This in turn leads to a lack of community and meaningful relationships as well as a higher risk of depression and anxiety. (And if we don’t have meaningful relationships in our lives, then what is the point?) As our world grows more virtual, being able to empathize, relate with, and value others as well as having the skills to operate effectively in the collective will be imperative to maintaining that sense of human connection and belonging that is so vital to our well-being.

  • Related to this, as we’ve already seen in the last several years, our ability to dialogue and communicate has deteriorated. Yet, it is likely that jobs requiring more human interaction or teamwork will be those that are harder to replace. Empowering my kids to be flexible in their thinking, open-minded in their participation, and effective in listening and communicating can help ensure they’ll thrive in our rapidly developing, more global, and more diverse world.

  • With change also comes new challenges. Relative to my own childhood (oh, those simpler times!), there are so many new issues our kids will face. Promoting a spirit of resilience, perseverance, and agency to stay engaged and forward focused when things are hard can prepare them for whatever may come their way.

  • Finally and most importantly, as a family of faith, our hope and prayer is that they’d always remain rooted in a deep knowledge of their identity as beloved children of God – to know that no matter how daunting or overwhelming circumstances may be, God is still sovereign, loving, and in control.

As two working parents, we have such limited hours each day with our kids. And in the grand scheme of things, the season we have while they are under are wings are short. I’ve appreciated going through this thought process, to ensure that any decisions we make on how we spend our time align with these skills I hope to impart.

*These are not necessarily the issues and competencies the larger district landed on; rather, these are our personal convictions of what shifts and skills are most critical.

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