Developing the critical skills, attitudes, and behaviors children need to succeed as adults requires consistent, supportive relationships and positive developmental experiences in and out of school, according to a report by the University of Chicago Consortium on Chicago School Research.
Foundations for Young Adult Success: A Developmental Framework states that children need to develop a sense of agency, integrate a sense of identity, be productive, effective, and adaptable in order to succeed in college and a career, form healthy relationships, make wise choices, and become engaged citizens. Among these qualities are four foundational components:
- “Self-regulation,” or being aware of and able to manage one’s attention, emotions, and behaviors to achieve goals.
- “Knowledge and skills” refer to one’s ability to understand oneself and the world as well as perform tasks.
- “Mindsets” are the way everyday experiences are processed.
- “Values” are the moral code of conduct and long-term beliefs.
The Wallace Foundation funded a study that found that children and youth benefit from development experiences involving action as well as reflection in order to develop agency, an integrated identity, and several key skills. In order to understand themselves and the world around them more fully, young people need strong, supportive, and sustained relationships with adults and peers. Additionally, the report offers educators, youth practitioners, parents, and families recommendations about when, where, and how factors to successfully develop.
In addition, children’s social and cognitive experiences in and out of school influence their brain growth and their propensity to learn new languages and explore the world.
What is a Rich Experience?
In order for a child to have a rich experience, the following characteristics must be present:
- Learning. For kids, every new experience is an opportunity to learn.
- Immersion. In order to learn from an experience, a child must engage both her heart and mind.
- Takeaways. Transforming a bad experience into a good one is another great lesson in finding a takeaway.
- Having fun. Students are more likely to participate and take risks when teachers use engaging and fun activities. The process of learning is also enjoyable and memorable if students are having fun while doing it.
One of the most important things young people are seeking is purpose. Adolescents who have a greater sense of purpose are happier and more hopeful. In some scholars’ definitions, “purpose” is an abiding aim that directs your behavior, gives meaning to your life, and has an impact on the world beyond your own.
Whether children feel a sense of purpose depends on the type of experiences they have as children.
The Childhood Experiences that Lead to a More Meaningful Life
Focus and Self-Control
Scheduling, habits, and routines help children learn self-control and focus, as well as create a sense of security — especially for children living in poverty. You should discuss what your child can expect each day with him or her. Provide your child with a space where shoes, coats, and personal belongings can be stored.
In today’s noisy, distracting world, quiet activities like reading books, participating in sensory activities, or completing puzzles can help your child focus and slow down.
The negative experiences we have early in life may affect our development of direction — even decades later.
A study by psychologist Patrick Hill and his colleagues examined over 3,800 primarily white adults between the ages of 20 and 75. Among the early childhood adversities they reported were:
- Emotional abuse
- Physical abuse
- Socioeconomic disadvantage
- Family structure disadvantages, such as parents divorcing or dying.
- Health disadvantages, for example, poor early physical or emotional health.
- A sense of purpose as adults.
It was found by Hill and his colleagues that people who experienced greater adversity as a child. particularly health disadvantages were less purposeful.
“Individuals who experience early adversity are not ‘doomed’ to a lower sense of purpose later in life,” the researchers write. “Instead, early adversity may be better viewed as a potential risk factor.”
Some people, however, find that tough times as children inspire them to pursue a particular calling, like working with children or eradicating poverty. “Some individuals may gain greater clarity on their life direction upon reflection on these adverse events,” Hill and his colleagues suggest.
The ability to think from another’s perspective does not come naturally to most children. But it is something that can be learned. In the books you read, make observations about the character’s feelings and motivations.
A child’s sense of purpose might even be affected by the conflict between their parents and children.
Hill and his colleagues conducted another study that included over 1,000 six to twelve-year-old children and their parents. Children from these families were followed until they reached their twenties by the researchers. Most of them were white, working-class families from the Pacific Northwest.
The children were asked to complete questionnaires about how much conflict, anger, and fun they had with their parents when they were in elementary school. A questionnaire was also filled out by the children as they became adults, in order to measure their satisfaction with their lives, their goals, and their stress levels.
How did things turn out? No matter how stressed and satisfied with life young adults were, those who had conflict with their mothers in their early years had a diminished sense of purpose as adults.
“Frequent conflict saps the child’s energy and enthusiasm, and in turn likelihood to live an active, engaged lifestyle, which has been suggested as a primary pathway by which individuals find what makes their lives purposeful,” Hill and colleagues contend.
To build healthy social-emotional skills, including understanding and communicating with others, children need high-touch, personal interactions every day. Although children develop these skills at different rates, they must learn how to recognize social cues and listen attentively. In order to communicate effectively, they must consider what they want to say and how to do it most effectively.
Building these skills can be as simple as talking to an interested adult. Taking time to listen and respond to your child every day will make a big difference in their development.
Attachment and Separation-Individuation
Hill and colleagues explored how purpose might be impacted by another aspect of the parent-child relationship in an earlier study.
In addition to parental attachment, they measured separation-individuation. In the study, parental attachment was measured by asking children to say things like, “I usually talk to [my mother or father] about my problems and concerns.” Parental attachment refers to the bond between a child and their primary caregivers that is based on their warmth and responsiveness. During adolescence and early adulthood, separation-individuation is the process of developing an independent, mature sense of self. A measure of separation-individuation problems was “I need other people around me to not feel empty.”
In an online survey conducted by a Canadian university, over 500 primarily white undergraduates ages 17-30 described their relationship with their parents and their sense of purpose.
Students who sensed purpose generally had a stronger attachment to their parents and had fewer separation-individuation problems than those with a lower sense of purpose. The result was a greater sense of mastery and control-they felt in control of their own lives.
In the view of Hill and his colleagues, “Having a sense of purpose could assist emerging adults with the process of defining themselves while maintaining adaptive relationships with their parental figures.”
The ability to see patterns and connections between seemingly disparate things is what allows us to learn. In order to understand the world, we need to make connections. When children sort basic household items such as toys and socks, they begin to see connections and patterns.
Simple acts, such as selecting clothing suitable for the weather, promote connections between them. There are also abstract connections in life that can be pointed out. For example, you’ve got to do more than just say, “That box of cereal costs $5.” Hand them some money and have them hand it over during checkout.
Positive childhood experiences, such as early memories of nature’s beauty, can prepare children for a purpose in life later on.
In Japan, researchers Riichiro Ishida and Masahiko Okada recruited nearly 70 college students aged 18 to 35. As part of the questionnaire, participants were asked about their purpose, their early life, and their youth experiences, including nature-related questions such as “Do you remember having feelings associated with nature? ”
Researchers found that more purposeful students had stronger memories of nature’s beauty during their early childhoods and early adolescence.
This relationship requires further research. Having a diminished sense of self, which comes with purpose — may allow a child to “engage with some aspect of the world beyond the self.” Which just so happens to be a foundational part of purpose.
In today’s complex world, adults make decisions every day about a wide range of issues. As such, play is an excellent way to develop critical thinking skills. Provide your child with time to play alone or with friends each day.
As part of this play, children might take on roles as superheroes, build structures, play board games, or play sports such as football. Play builds critical thinking skills through hypotheses, risk-taking, trying out ideas, making mistakes, and finding solutions.
Exposure to Diverse Activities
As children get older, early childhood experiences may influence not only whether or not they develop purpose at all, but also what kind of purpose they gravitate towards.
Kendall Cotton Bronk conducted a study with nine 12 to 23-year-olds with an exceptional sense of purpose. Over the course of five years, her team interviewed them three times for three hours each.
“According to the exemplars, they would not have discovered noble purposes in the areas they did had they not been involved in those areas early on, often as children,” Bronk said. “As parents, teachers, and other adults interested in fostering noble purpose among youth, then it is important to expose young people to a wide variety of activities.”
An 18-year-old in the study told how she became interested in cancer research when she was five after volunteering for a fundraising event at the mall with the American Cancer Society. In the study, another 18-year-old with the purpose of creating and promoting jazz music shared, “I got into music when I was nine because my next-door neighbor . . . had a piano, and he taught me how to play Pink Panther and Greensleeves and stuff like that.”
A related study by Ishida and Okada found that adults who remember receiving praise and praise from their parents, teachers, friends, and neighbors during childhood are more likely to have a stronger sense of purpose in life.
In the early years of childhood, children may not be able to recognize the importance of a specific activity. They may instead find their strengths and ways to contribute gradually as they participate in the activity, slowly building their commitment.
Self-Directed, Engaged Learning
When a child loves learning, he or she will never be bored in life as an adult. Encourage children to read, play, and explore in an open-ended way to foster a love of learning. Encourage curiosity in your children by taking them to the library or even allowing them to make some messes at home.
Budget-friendly Ways to Create Rich Experiences
Bolster their academic skills.
You can infuse math into mealtime, for instance. When preparing meals, children can count, measure, estimate, compare, and recognize shapes. Count the number of cups and utensils your family will need, and ask your child to measure and count ingredients.
Enhance their communication skills.
Having an adventure in your living room would be a great idea. Imagine you are riding a magic carpet, a submarine, or a school bus to your next adventure with your kids. Have them share their ideas about where they’d like to go, and take turns coming up with stories about your adventures. Ask kids creative questions based on what you see and describe what you see.
Promote social-emotional development.
Stay in touch with your emotions on a regular basis. When adults are stressed and worried, young children can easily pick up on that stress. As such, each day, spend time checking in and connecting with your child. Ask them, “How did your day go” and “what do you plan to do tomorrow?”
Live richer on a budget.
To live a rich life, you don’t need a lot of money, notes GoBankingRates. Despite the fact that it can be difficult to feel like you’re living well while cutting costs, you don’t have to sacrifice everything you enjoy. In the end, living on a budget doesn’t mean giving up everything you enjoy. You can still live a rich life if you follow these steps.
- Figure out what makes your life rich. Donna Freedman, long-time personal finance writer and author of the “Your Playbook For Tough Times” book series, said a rich life isn’t determined by money. “Money is essential to survival, but it’s not all there is to life,” she said. For example, spending time with loved ones.
- Finesse your budget. Your budget might have more room than you think for the things that you enjoy. Review your spending to see if there are any costs you can reduce. “Chances are you may be wasting money without realizing it,” money-saving expert Andrea Woroch said.
- Look for low-cost and free ways to live rich. For little to no cost, it is possible to get what you need, want or enjoy. If you live in an area where there is a Buy Nothing Project Facebook group, Freedman suggests checking it out. People can give away everything from furniture to musical instruments to children’s toys and clothes in these groups.
- Find frugal alternatives. Travel may not be possible. You can still tour museums and explore new cities through books or virtual tours.
- Be grateful for what you do have. Focus on what you do have and what is going right in your life. Maybe you would like to upgrade your phone but can’t afford it. Take pride in having a phone that works.
Find them a mentor.
Mentorship can provide stability and opportunities for those who may not have access to guidance or the right environment to help them discover and reach their goals. There are even some programs, such as Friends of the Children-Detroit, that aim to help children break the cycle of generational poverty.
“The way I describe Friends of the Children is we are a long-term mentoring program that’s evidence-based that matches children, one-to-one, with a paid professional mentor with the goal to end generational poverty,” says Nicole McKinney, executive director of Friends of the Children-Detroit.
The program strives for three long-term goals:
- Upon completion of the program, each child receives his or her GED or high school diploma.
- Preventing juveniles from entering the criminal justice system.
- Teen pregnancy prevention. Based on the needs of each child, the program is specially designed to promote achievement.
Another option is MENTOR.
According to its site, “MENTOR was created more than 30 years ago to expand that opportunity for young people by building a youth mentoring field and movement, serving as the expert and go-to resource on quality mentoring. The result — a more than 10x increase in young people in structured mentoring relationships, from hundreds of thousands to millions.”
Take advantage of free or low-cost camps.
As previously mentioned, spending time outside can help develop purpose in children. Furthermore, outdoor family activities and communal playtime can improve your child’s motor skills.
Unfortunately, when leaving in generational poverty, this might be an option. For instance, a parent may be working multiple jobs and can not take their children to the park. Also, there may be easy access to green spaces.
Fortunately, there are several free and low-cost programs that can provide such experiences, such:
- The YMCA. Although they are not free, they are very affordable. In New Hampshire, there are a variety of camp opportunities, such as Camp Lawrence for boys and Camp Nokomis for girls. In addition, Ohio is home to three Countryside YMCA locations.
- The Salvation Army. Children between the ages of 5 and 14 can enroll in the Salvation Army’s summer camps. There are no free camps, but each one costs no more than $50 a week for each child. Several discounts reduce the cost for your second child to $40 and for your third child to $30 if you send multiple children.
- Police Athletic League. In terms of summer camps for low-income families, the Police Athletic League is one of the best options. Summer camps are offered by PAL for children aged 5-13 at no cost. There may be a PAL location nearby since there are over a dozen locations across the country.
- The Fresh Air Fund. New York City’s Fresh Air Fund provides summer camp adventures for low-income communities.
Additionally, there are non-profits like the Boys & Girls Club. Across the country, there are after-school programs that include homework assistance, art instruction, STEM activities, music, theater, sports, cooking, and special interest clubs. Besides computers and WiFi, there is also a social time for children to meet new people or be with friends.
1. What is poverty?
Aside from dollar amounts, quality of life also plays a part in poverty discussions. In poverty, there is struggle and deprivation every day.
There is often a lack of quality education for children living in poverty. It may be due to a lack of quality schools, the inability of their parents to afford school fees, or the need for their children to work in impoverished families. Consequently, poverty becomes a generational cycle if children are not provided with a quality education.
A poverty-stricken family can’t afford to visit a doctor or get medical treatment. As a result, there is often no electricity, limited shelter, and little to no food to eat. Poor nutrition can lead to stunting and wasting in young children, which will negatively affect their development for the rest of their lives.
2. What causes poverty?
It’s not just a lack of water, food, shelter, education, or health care that causes poverty. Poverty can also be caused by social inequalities such as gender discrimination, poor governance, conflict, exploitation, or domestic violence. As a result of these inequities, people or society can become poor as well as be unable to access social services that could help them to improve their situation.
3. What is the cycle of poverty?
Poverty is a trap that can be hard to escape. An individual must have access to educational opportunities, clean water, medical facilities nearby, as well as financial resources in order to escape poverty. Unless these elements are in place, poverty will carry on from generation to generation.
Families with poor finances will not be able to send their children to school, which will impact their children’s ability to earn an income as adults. Conflict and natural disasters can enhance the poverty cycle or exacerbate it. People in impoverished communities are more vulnerable and often lack basic resources when a natural disaster strikes, therefore further entrenching their poverty or jeopardizing their newly emerging community.
4. How many children in the US live in families with low incomes?
In the US, 38 percent of children under 18 years old live in families with low income, and 17 percent – nearly one in five – live in poverty. As a result, kids make up 32 percent of the poor in our nation; they represent 23 percent of the population. There are a lot more kids living in families just above the poverty threshold.
Low-income or poor families do not happen by accident. Children who experience economic insecurity are likely to have parents with low education and low employment, as well as racial or ethnic background. Race, geography, and other factors play a role in determining children’s economic insecurity experiences.
5. What can we do to end generational poverty?
In order to break generational poverty, education seems to be the most effective method. By creating a path for these families to reach new dreams, we can help them find hope in the future. It is necessary to implement many different programs in order to end generational poverty. A wide range of services is available to end generational poverty, including Head Start, vocational training, housing assistance, food assistance, and after-school programs. It’s crucial to provide basic courses like financial literacy and soft skills training as well.
Overall, education, training, financial support, nutrition, and some human kindness can break the poverty cycle.