Credit: drobotdean Via Freepik
Too often, people think of high school education in restrictive terms. A teenager attends class, absorbs information by rote, demonstrates their retention of that information, and then receives a piece of paper detailing the transaction.
But this “transactional” approach to education misses the mark. There’s much more to a high school education than what’s detailed on that transcript. What about the socialization, time management and work ethic they learn? What about teamwork skills and communication?
These essential fluencies are what we call “soft skills.” And they are equally important as the hard skills (like learning how to solve functions or understand Shakespeare). In this article, find everything you need to know about teaching teens soft skills.
What Are Soft Skills?
Essentially, soft skills are proficiencies that help people interact with one another and their environments. The adults reading thismight find it useful to think of the workplace for an example of soft skills in action.
Let’s say you’re an accountant. Your hard skills involve understanding how to crunch numbers and balance books. But you also need soft skills to function in the workplace – like knowing how to relate to your coworkers, how to break bad news to clients in financial trouble, how to craft an informative email, etc. These skills aren’t anywhere to be found in your credentials or diploma – but they are necessary nonetheless.
Why Are They Important?
As mentioned, soft skills help people interact with their peers and environment. They allow you to navigate the emotional, mental and logistical sides of life. Without them, you might offend others, miss your deadlines or fail to muster the motivation you need to succeed in the workplace and at home.
What Are Some Examples?
Soft skills encompass a broad spectrum of personal attributes. To give you a better sense of what we’re talking about, here are a few critical soft skills:
As you can see, these soft skills run the gamut from interpersonal proficiencies to administrative competencies – and everything in between. At first glance, it might seem like they share nothing in common. But what they share is “universal relevance.” Every workplace requires these skills; every social relationship needs these skills. They help transform teens into caring, hard-working, organized adults.
How to Ensure Your Teen Learns Soft Skills
They don’t often teach soft skills in high school – at least not directly. But you can ensure that your teen learns essential soft skills by taking a proactive approach to their education.
To start, consider an accredited online high school. Unlike traditional brick-and-mortar schools, online high schools are “self-paced,” meaning that students naturally practice soft skills relating to self-management and self-regulation. Without a teacher over their shoulder in an MHF4U course, for instance,they need to develop their own systems of planning, time management and motivation. Moreover, online schools are, by nature, an effective primer in digital literacy and online communication. Several online high school students report feeling prepared for post-secondary school and the modern workplace because of their unique education.
Next, try to take an active role in your teen’s relationship with school. Sit down with them and brainstorm a strategy for time management – whether it’s keeping a detailed agenda or allocating study blocks each day. Explain the importance of remaining engaged during lectures. And demonstrate why teamwork is vital by collaborating with them on extracurricular projects.
Finally, offer teens the opportunity to have a rich life outside of school. Allow them to socialize with friends and create opportunities to forge meaningful relationships. Especially in a digital age, it’s important for teens to make “real-life” relationships. As a parent, instil certain values like empathy and active listening by modelling those behaviours.
Soft skills are as important as their “hard counterparts.” People leverage their soft skills every day – in friendships and romantic relationships, in the workplace and at home. These skills include (but aren’t limited to) time management, active listening, digital fluency and self-motivation.
Parents who want to ensure their kids hone these essential soft skills can try several strategies. Online education is a fantastic way to foster soft skills, especially in self-paced schools. Modelling soft skills at home is another great way to help teens develop these proficiencies. And encouraging young people to be kind, communicative and proactive in their relationships helps round out their soft skills.
Your teen may never see “soft skills” written on their transcript. But they will undoubtedly use these essential attributes as they learn to navigate the big, wide world.