Schoolwork is essential for preparing children and teens for adulthood, but formal education alone is not enough. Children and teens also need to master soft skills to ensure success in their jobs and in their relationships with others. In fact, 77 percent of employers consider soft skills to be just as valuable as hard skills that are directly related to specific task and job titles, according to Career Builder.
Learning soft skills can be more difficult for children and young people with special needs. Emphasizing the inclusion of soft skills training within a child’s Individualized Education Program (IEP) can facilitate the development of soft skills in children and teens with special needs. There is also quite a lot that parents can do to help their children and teens to develop soft skills, including children and young people with special needs.
What Are Soft Skills?
Soft skills can be difficult to categorize. A ten-year effort by the National Association for Literacy conducted during the 1990s in collaboration with the Commission on Achieving Necessary Skills (SCANS) administered by the U.S. Secretary of Labor and the Equipped for Future Framework (EFF) resulted in four major categories of soft skills: communication skills, interpersonal skills, decision making skills and lifelong learning skills. These critical soft skills also count as transferable skills – skills that can be applied to nearly any job or occupation.
How Parents Can Help
By taking an active role, parents can help children develop necessary soft skills. Efforts to build soft skills should begin while children are young. Preschool aged children can be taught the importance of sharing and taking turns. Older children can be given daily dictionary exercises to help build vocabulary skills. Teenagers can be encouraged volunteer to mow an elderly neighbor’s lawn. Older teens should be required to save money from part-time jobs or their allowances to purchase concert tickets and other items they want, rather than expecting parents to purchase everything for them.
Children of all ages can learn from examples set by parents. Parents can model active listening for their children – by paying close attention to another speaker, repeating what is being said, and asking questions. Parents should also allow children to observe interactions where differences are resolved constructively, such as returning a damaged item.
The combination of classroom skills and soft skills training at home can help ensure that children and young people are well equipped to deal with college and the workplace.