McKendree University recently acknowledged the remarkable impact of JAKAPA on our college students. Dr. Jean M. Scheller-Sampson, Chair of the School of Business and Professor
Let's talk soft skills...
Why do Soft Skills matter for students?
Are you aware of the secret ingredient that can help your child excel in school and their future career? It’s not just academic knowledge but also soft skills! Soft skills are the abilities that help us navigate social interactions, communicate effectively, and work efficiently in a team. They have far-reaching effects on your child’s success and can impact their academic and extracurricular activities. By developing soft skills early on, your child will have an edge in their career and life. So, why not start nurturing these skills today?
Other Names for Soft Skills
As a parent, you may hear different names for soft skills, which refer to similar skills. These may be called social-emotional behavioral skills, social-emotional skills, power skills, durable skills, interpersonal skills, 21st-century skills, Career Readiness skills, Emotional Intelligence Quotient, People skills, Professionalism, and Personal skills.
The 5 Areas of Soft Skills
Soft Skills come in different flavors, but we’ll focus on five main areas that every student should master before they graduate. These areas are like puzzle pieces that fit together to create a bigger picture of personal and professional growth. Here they are:
- Self-Management Skills – How well does your child manage themselves and their time?
- Innovation Skills – How well can your child process new information and think outside the box?
- Emotional Resilience – How well can your child handle setbacks, stress, and conflicts?
- Social Engagement Skills – How well can your child communicate, collaborate, and connect with others?
- Cooperation Skills – How well can your child work in a team, respect diversity, and contribute to a common goal?
Each of these areas is important in its own way, but they also overlap and influence each other. For example, if your child is good at managing their time, they may have more room for creativity and collaboration. If your child is emotionally resilient, they may be more open to feedback and learning from mistakes. If your child is socially engaged, they may have a more comprehensive network of friends, mentors, and supporters. And if your child is cooperative, they may be a valuable asset to any organization or community.
What to expect to learn from reading this?
This guide is meant to be a broad overview of those 5 areas. It will help you think about your child’s skill levels and give you some tips and tricks for improving those skills.
Why are Self-Management Skills Important?
Self-Management Skills are important because they increase your child’s ability to pass their classes, succeed in extracurricular activities, graduate high school, attend and graduate higher education, and succeed in whatever their chosen career and dreams may take them.
What are Self-Management Skills?
Definition of Self-Management Skills
According to BESSI- Self-Management skills are defined as Capacities that people use to effectively pursue goals and complete tasks.
In other words, these are the skills your child needs to develop to be better at completing their homework, getting good grades, and having good attendance. These skills significantly affect your child’s ability to graduate high school, keep employment and attend and graduate higher education programs.
These skills answer the essential question, “How well does your child manage themselves and their time?”
Examples of Self-Management Skills
Self-Management Skills can be broken down into Task Management, Time Management, Detail Management, Organizational Skills, Responsibility Management, Ability to be Consistent, Goal Regulation, Rule Following, and Decision-Making Skills.
Other Names for Self-Management Skills
Other names for self-management skills or associated areas of skills are executive function, self-control, self-regulation skills, and self-discipline.
How to tell if your child has good Self-Management Skills?
Children good at these skills can keep their lives, belongings, and spaces organized. They complete their tasks on time and know how to break down their dreams into manageable pieces to help them build towards achieving their goals. People around them can feel they can be relied upon as they can consistently get their tasks done and achieve their goals. They have structured smaller plans that build into their bigger dreams. They are also likely to clearly understand how those smaller goals contribute to the bigger picture.
Ways to improve your child's Self-Management Skills?
Have them practice Goal Setting
Helping your child outline a goal and break it up into meaningful steps. Use the SMART goal-setting framework- goals should be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound. You will empower your child by walking them through this process and teaching them how to make achievable goals. There is much more power in writing down a SMART goal rather than only thinking about an unclear, undefined plan. Please help your child see how they can get where they want to be. Remember, the journey is just as important as the destination.
Teach them Decision-Making
Walk them through a Decision-Making Process- have them work through a decision-making process where they consider their potential options, think through the positives and negatives of each of those options, and rank those options in order of the most favorable choice they can make.
Give them positive reinforcement- Developing good self-management skills is a reinforcing cycle. The stronger your skills are, the more likely you are to recognize that they positively impact your life. That is why providing your child with positive reinforcement when they are in the early stages of developing their skills is so important.
Use a brag calendar that you hang in their room or space and write a positive behavior you noticed the child do that day.
Recognize their Accomplishments
Let them know that you see them making progress toward their goals.
Give a little grace
Remember, it is a process; when they stumble, a little positive reinforcement and grace will go a long way to getting them back on track.
Have your child develop new habits by practicing Habit Stacking and adding their new habits to their current activities. This will reinforce their behavior more naturally. Please have your child pick out a practice that they want to form. Add this habit to the end of an activity that they frequently do.
Use techniques like time blocking- have your child block out their schedule with the tasks they need to complete. This is a proven technique as it gives the child a clear focus on what needs to be done during that time.
Why are Innovation Skills critical?
Innovation skills allow your child to be more open and accepting of new ideas, enabling them to think critically and use information in new and vital ways. In a world where technology is replacing many more manual, repetitive tasks that need to be done, these innovative skills will allow your child to succeed and adapt to the new world.
What are Innovation Skills?
Definition of Innovation Skills
According to BESSI, Innovation skills are the capacities people use to create, engage with, and learn from new ideas and experiences.
In other words, innovation skills allow your child to absorb new information and ideas, then let them play around with the knowledge and ideas and learn and connect new things to them.
These skills answer the critical question, “How well can your child process new information and ideas?”
Examples of Innovation Skills
Some examples of innovation skills include abstract thinking, creativity, artistic expression, cultural competence, and information processing.
Other Names for Innovation Skills
You might have heard innovation skills called by a different name, such as creativity or critical thinking.
How to tell if your child has good Innovation Skills?
You can tell if your child has good innovation skills by looking at how they deal with new information. Do they accept the latest news and embrace it? Do they adjust based on what they have seen, heard, or experienced? Are they accepting of new ideas, people, or cultures? Are they curious about new things and ask tons of questions?
Ways to improve your child's Innovation Skills?
Explore New Cultures and People
Take them on a cultural experience or try out a new type of food by going to a restaurant or making it home. (We recommend making it with your child at home to allow them to dig in.)
Reading new information about different topics impacts your child’s way of thinking and learning. Try to introduce new topics and ideas in the books that they read.
Similar to reading are other mediums of information, such as movies or television shows, that introduce new topics. There is a lot of power to expose your child to new concepts visually.
Explore New Places and Ideas
Take them to places where new and different things happen. Check with your local library or science center for ideas.
Engage with the Ideas
Innovation skills are about more than just absorbing new information. They are also about engaging with them. Try and get your child to engage with creating or building something. Music, baking or cooking, dance, or video creation. The ideas are endless for how they can genuinely engage with the ideas around them.
Keep an Idea Journal
Have them keep an idea journal. When they think of a new idea or thing they want to try, have them write it down. Have them revisit their idea journal periodically and expand on their ideas and inspiration.
Why are Emotional Resilience skills necessary?
Emotional resilience skills are vital because they allow your student to perform at their best. When individuals don’t have adequate stress and anger management techniques, they aren’t able to succeed in their school work or extracurriculars. They also will struggle to maintain healthy relationships.
What is Emotional Resilience?
Definition of Emotional Resilience
According to BESSI: Capacities that people use to regulate their emotions and moods.
In other words, emotional resilience skills are the skills your child needs to deal with their feelings and stress in a productive way.
Emotional Resilience skills answer, “How well can your child manage their emotions and stress?”
Examples of Emotional Resilience
Emotional resilience is made up of underlying skills such as Stress Regulation, Optimism, Anger Management, Confidence Regulation, Independence, Adaptability, and Impulse Regulation.
Other Names for Emotional Resilience
You might have heard emotional resilience skills called by different names, such as mental fortitude, grit, stoicism, psychological resilience, and emotional stability.
How to tell if your child has good Emotional Resilience Skills?
You can tell if your child has good emotional resilience skills by examining how they manage their emotions. When they are feeling stressed, do they stay calm and focused? Can they process their feelings effectively, or do they turn moody or throw a tantrum when angry. Do they see the brighter side of things or dwell on the negatives and what could have been? Can they resist temptations and impulses when they come in? Are they able to adapt to change and manage their independence?
Ways to improve your child's Emotional Resilience?
Have them Journal
Journaling is a powerful technique for developing optimism and managing anger and confidence. Give your child a private journal to record their thoughts and feelings. It is crucial that they feel safe in what they can write and divulge. Challenge them to recognize the good things that happen during their day and how they can set themselves up for success tomorrow. What is something they are thankful for? By having them build a habit of recognizing these things, they will start to see them more clearly in their everyday life.
Similar to journaling, this involves having a two-sided conversation about their experience, your experience, and these skills. Open, honest communication is the key. Help them process their emotions and understand why they are feeling this way. Feelings are temporary. By learning to be aware of them and not letting them control their life or behavior, your child can start to process their anger and stress in healthier, more manageable ways.
Developing a Stress Plan
Walk your child through creating a stress plan. Speak with them about what stress makes them think about, what stress makes their body feel like, and what specific activities make them feel more stressed. Discuss it, have them write it down, journal, and record their stress levels and how they deal with it. By registering those thoughts and feelings, they will be more prepared and have a plan for when stress inevitably happens.
This is critical. Children are constantly observing and learning from observation. By developing your emotional resilience skills and showing and modeling those skills, they will be much more likely to build their own. Your child will develop emotional resilience skills by openly and honestly communicating about emotions and stress.
There will be times when they fail to emotionally regulate or deal with stress. Use these moments as a learning opportunity to reinforce the times they have been successful. Discuss with your child why these specific moments were different.
Why are Social Engagement skills critical?
Social Engagement skills are essential because communication skills are some of the most in-demand skills by employers. It is also an area that recent graduates struggle with the most. Communicating and interacting with others positively and effectively is a critical skill for your child to get what they want out of life.
What is Social Engagement?
Definition of Social Engagement
BESSI defines social engagement skills as “capacities people use to actively engage with others in one-on-one and group interactions.”
In other words, this means how well your child can interact and communicate with 1-on-1 communication with others and in a group setting.
Social Engagement Skills answer, “How well can your child interact and communicate with the other people and groups around them?”
Examples of Social Engagement Skills
When the term social engagement is used, these are the specific underlying skills: Leadership, Conversational, Expressive, Persuasive, and Energy Regulation.
Other Names for Social Engagement
You might have heard other terms used for Social Engagement skills. A couple of these terms are communication, interpersonal, social, and people skills.
How to tell if your child has good Social Engagement skills?
You can tell if your child has good social engagement skills by observing how they communicate with others. It is important to note these skills can be expressed differently depending on the audience your child is interacting with. Observe how they interact with their peers and friends, people that are in authority over them- you as their parent, their teachers, their principal, people that service them- waiters at restaurants, employees at the supermarket. Ask yourself whether they are communicating clearly. Are they expressing what they intend? Did they say it in a way that advocates for their needs? Did they make the person they share with feel listened to, understood, and appreciated? Do they bring energy to the conversation or encounter when they are with other people?
Ways to improve your child's Social Engagement Skills?
Practice with Them
This one is clear; have your child practice communication with you. Give them feedback on how they are doing and how they could be more precise.
Discuss the Importance of Listening
Discuss the importance of listening. Communication is about more than just talking. Please have your child practice active listening when they are speaking with others.
Have them Advocate for themselves to different groups of people
Have them advocate for themselves with different groups of people. If you are visiting a doctor, have them speak directly to the doctor. If they are at the store and need something, have them communicate with the store employee. Practice the conversation in advance and help them think about and shape what they will say. After the encounter, ask them how it felt and what they could have done differently.
Why are Cooperation skills critical?
Cooperation skills are essential because activities and work have become increasingly team or group related. Your child needs to know how to effectively participate in a group, whether in class projects, sports, extracurricular activities, or work.
What is Cooperation?
Definition of Cooperation
BESSI defines cooperation skills as “Capacities that people use to maintain positive, harmonious, and satisfying social relationships.”
In other words, cooperation skills are the skills your child needs to develop to have, grow and maintain healthy relationships and teams.
Cooperation skills answer the questions, “How well can your child interact effectively with others and in teams?”
Examples of Cooperation Skills
The term cooperation skills is an umbrella for the following foundational skills- Perspective Taking, Social Warmth, Teamwork, Trusting, and Ethical Capacity.
Other Names for Cooperation
You might have heard cooperation skills described differently, such as courteousness, social friendliness, teamwork, or community-mindedness.
How to tell if your child has good Cooperation skills?
You can tell if your child is good at cooperation skills by noting their ability to understand why their actions affected other people’s moods and feelings; they can make others feel included and wanted. They work well with others and can easily find and support their role in a group. They strive to behave ethically and fairly.
Ways to improve your child's Cooperation Skills?
Role-Play Collaborative Scenarios
Role-play with your child about how their actions made other people feel. Explain to them how their efforts made you think.
Practice Makes Perfect
Have them practice working on more teams- you could have them work with you on things around the house or have them assist a local nonprofit or organization. Have them think about the team’s larger mission and how they contribute by contributing to that mission.
Have them think about their actions in terms of choosing ethically. It is vital to not just label things as right or wrong. Have your child understand why something is ethical, how could it hurt others, and what are the benefits of behaving this way?