Preparing Our Kids for a Changing Climate & World
I’ve come to interpret climate change as being about a lot more than the weather. If you look it up, climate also means "the prevailing attitudes, standards, or environmental conditions of a group, period, or place (Dictionary.com)." By that definition "climate" can refer to many things, and "climate change" therefore is a fast and powerful shift in the many different domains of our modern lives.
In the recent post, Preparing for Prosperity, and How to Plan for an Uncertain Future, I talk about some of the biggest shifts we are experiencing. Disruptors in the climate of the seasons and weather, the economic climate, the social climate, the climate of technology, etc. The article outlines some of my actions to adapt, prepare and thrive in this changing world. I also write a lot about how we as individuals can stay protected and empowered, and extend that resilience to our family and friends.
One of my big questions and personal interests these days is "are we keeping up with the changes and adapting quick enough? Are we doing what we need to in order to keep our families safe and set them up for success in the world of tomorrow?" (which is really here already).
Allow me to add another layer to all of this. If climate change means a myriad of things, then what does it mean to our children, to the next generation? And what can we do to not only protect today's youngsters, but how can we help them grow into people who have the abilities to adapt and thrive in this changing climate?
This is obviously a huge topic, an ongoing conversation. Please share your thoughts, questions and learned lessons in the comments below, and in your communities. As always, we have to work together on this one.
As for me, I've been working with youth for a couple decades now, and would be honored to share these three thoughts on preparing kids for a changing climate and a rapidly changing world with you.
1. Help Kids become Intuitive Problem Solvers
As far as the economy goes, and even the physical climate we are living in, we do not know what is around the next corner. All we do know is tomorrow (which is coming fast) is not going to look like today.
A lot of progressive entrepreneurs believe the old path of going to college/university to train for your career is becoming outdated. Hundreds of thousands of jobs in which students are paying large amounts of money to train for in school right now are going to be replaced by machines in the next ten years. This is a problem.
How do we prepare kids for a workforce that is changing so quickly?
One way is to focus on helping kids be innate problem solvers. To think out of the box and know how to overcome challenges both with their minds and bodies. To look at challenges and figure it out.
This may seem simple or like common sense, but in my work with young adults, I am commonly working with students that lack the ability and personal drive to face any discomfort or challenge. If the answer is not apparent immediately, they give up. Our society makes instant gratification a priority, a priority that is just starting to reveal it's consequences.
When I was a child, my Dad and I had a weekly “Science Club.” We figured out how to do things together. We built rocket ships, fixed the home toilet, nailed boards together, and in general, just got curious about how things worked and figured out how to make and fix things. My Dad included me all the time in fixing things around the house.
This obviously isn't me... but it looks like they're getting it!
This early childhood brain patterning has equated to being a person who just figures out how to do things. I taught myself carpentry, how to build furniture and basic structures, how to do basic plumbing, how to grow food, how to edit videos, how to design websites, basic accounting, and a host of other things. I believe this makes me very adaptable and resourceful. These are all skills that can go on resume, be used to make a few extra bucks her and there, and they help me overcome the many challenges life brings my way.
I work for myself, but if I ever had to apply for a job, there is A LOT I can put on my resume of practical skills. Even more importantly, I have the confidence to know I am capable of learning almost anything I need to get by in life. I love figuring out how to do things and rarely use Google for it.
Teaching kids to fix things, build things, and come up with solutions to problems is a priceless skill set. One with practical applications to almost every aspect of life.
There is a lot of reasons to suspect there will be less “jobs for hire” in the future economy. Especially good paying jobs. There will however be no shortage of problems. People who know how to solve problems and are ambitious and creative in their problem-solving pursuits are likely to create a job for themselves in any economy.
How could you mentor children in entrepreneurial skills?
I will use the classic lemonade stand for an example. Selling lemon aid to earn money is excellent. But if Mom and Dad cover all the expenses, and the kids keep all the profits, how is this preparing them for the "real" future?
Help your kids understand the concept of a profit margins, gross vs net profits, the end of the day balance sheet. Challenge them to leverage their newly made money. Kids need to learn to work hard, but they also need to learn to work smart to survive the future economy.
It is a great lesson to work hard all day, and have little to show for it after expenses (or taxes). You can be defeated with this - or you can get creative.
What are they going to do with the lemons life gives them?
What did they learn from this experience and how do they work smarter next time?
This is where leverage and system design comes into play. How could they invest a small portion of their earnings back into their own business to make it more efficient or profitable? Or, could they invest into creating a new business that will bring more significant returns while also helping people in the community with a problem and freeing up more of their time?
Challenge them to look for problems they can solve and create sustainable economic systems to address them. This is the entrepreneurial spirit, and it will be very valuable in our changing and unstable economy.
2. Get kids out into Nature, A LOT, and go Camping
Where can I even begin this one? Let's take a look...
Childhood (and adulthood) mental health issues are becoming an epidemic. As someone who has worked with thousands of youth and adults over my career, it is scary to see the trend of people being unable to sit comfortably in their own skin without distractions. I commonly see people have mild to severe panic attics when they have to sit quietly without distractions in the outdoors.
For most of human history, the peace of the outdoors has been one of the most powerful tools we as a species have to escape the stresses of day to day life. A way to quiet our racing thoughts, and seek insights into our next steps in life. And in a blink of an eye, people are losing the ability to sit in peace in nature and take in its vast wisdom.
On top of the mental heath benefits of knowing you can always sit in nature to get a break, and get insights into your life challenges, nature is also an incredible teacher of… well… a million things.
How do we live healthily and sustainably if we do not understand the intricacies of the ecosystems that support every aspect of our lives?
We learn about those intricacies from spending time out in nature, interacting with and observing it. Some of the most amazing solutions to our words biggest problems are being discovered in seeing how nature solves similar problems. If you want to learn more about this, look up the science and concept, of "Biomimicry."
The experience of camping also teaches an incredible number of basic life skills. From learning how to cook over a fire, to removing ourselves from the comforts of modern urban life to gain perspective on where things like water, food, light, etc., come from, to following the complicated instructions of tent manuals, to swimming, to...
Dealing with the challenges that come up camping is also an amazing teacher in creative problem solving, resiliency, and creates an appreciation for modern conveniences.
Learning to paddle white water is another great skill for older kids to learn. White water is full of risks and fun. Learning to navigate a white water risk safely teaches problem-solving, risk calculation, hard work and is rewarded with incredible pleasure.
When I hire staff, I look for white water paddling and backcountry camping experience, regardless of the job I’m hiring for. I have found people with these life experiences are generally very competent, hardworking and have naturally good critical decision-making skills.
I fear a world where kids know nothing more than modern digital life. To live in a world dependent on natural ecosystems, but oblivious to the essential give and take relationship we all have with nature, is a recipe for disaster.
Take your kids camping and send them into the woods to play weekly if not daily and the learning with happen naturally.
For older youth, I highly recommend doing a longer out trip adventure with a reputable organization. Going on a three week plus Wilderness Adventure is nothing short of life-changing for most people.
Youth are likely to be pushed in ways they never new were possible. They will have to dig deep to find inner strength and courage they never new they had. They will have to overcome social problems because there is no other choice but to keep traveling together. They will also experience incredible beauty and reverence for the simple things like a good nights sleep, a simple, healthy meal, the safety of returning home, a quiet view of the star or rising sun, and so much more. This is a priceless perspective in our world of convenience and often entitlement.
A few organizations to explore are:
3. Role Model/Encourage Objective & Two-Sided Thinking
The digital age is having implications on the development of the human mind, how we think, reason, and interact with each other. In the short time I have had a smartphone and been on Facebook, I can already notice the impact these tools are having on my mind.
What does this mean for the youth of today who take this as normal?
This is a massive experiment in phycology, brain chemistry, and even sociology and culture. Nervous to see the results?
We have an unprecedented amount of information at our fingertips, and simultaneously we live in a world where our world view and personal bias is being exasperated, built by social media and digital profiling at an alarming rate.
How can we live in a world with access to so much information yet witness open arguments and the citing of incorrect information ever where we look on the internet?
The fear I have is that people are unaware of how much our personal bias and opinions are being influenced by the digital culture we immerse ourselves in.
People are increasingly able to find articles and other people to support their word view, labeled as fact as opposed to opinion. The more I search a particular topic, and the more my friends share a specific world view, the more all my online interactions become biased to favor that world view (even what google and my social media feed 'decides' to show me is bias-affirming).
Another point to consider is the reliability of the information we get in the first place. The new 'normal' involves looking at inclusive, emotional debates, then making important life decisions based on the conflicting data we see. Assuming one even looks at both sides before making the decision.
So how do we give children and youth the tools to discern through this information age?
- Challenge your kids to research opposing points of view to their (or your) own opinions. Identify your/their assumptions about the other sides argument. Then, fact-check those assumptions, making sure no critical information was missed. Its amazing watching someone's incorrect judgment dissolve when they find the flaw in their assumptions on their own, rather than being told that they are wrong.
- Look at topics with conflicting science and be open to the fact that there is a grey area in science. Science is relative to the variables being studies. Change a variable, and the outcome may change as well. Maybe it is not as simple as right and wrong, black and white. Could both answers be right? Could they both be wrong? Could they both have a little of each?
- Speaking of science, understand and point out the importance of the scientific method, (in this case questioning, and having only one true certainty: I could be wrong) and how that differs form what is often advertised as 'science,' 'fact,' or 'truth.'
- Role model being aware of your own personal bias and be clear when you are stating facts vs. stating opinions and judgments. Opinions and judgments are normal human tendencies, but when we mistake them as facts, we limit ourselves from learning and growing.
- For older kids, encourage them to join the school debate team. Challenge them to argue the opposite side of their own stance on something, and help them understand there are two sides to any story. This kind of reasoning only helps their world view in the long run by refining its accuracy.
- When you read and discuss articles from the internet (or anywhere really) ask what assumptions the author may have? What influences their world view and writing? Most reports and studies (including Government and University studies) will have some degree of bias in them. This is normal. It's pretending that bias is not there that's the dangerous part.
- Remind them, you do not have to believe in or support someone else view to try to see it through their eyes and challenge your own assumptions of their opinion. Or, to ultimately continue acting with compassion and respect, despite the disagreement.
Let’s teach children to ask good questions before forming assumptions and opinions, and defending their positions on things. This kind of objective thinking will help them navigate the often heavily biased information age we now face. It is also a skill that will help them make better decisions in work and life in general.
We do not know what is around the next bend in this quickly changing climate. Kids and people will need to be resourceful, adaptable, cooperative and confident in themselves to succeed and thrive.
Nature is an incredible teacher of all these traits, and you can help consciously bring in some of the other pieces. I know this is a complex topic with many possibilities, and the conversation is far from over. Let's learn from and inspire each other.