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Life Skills Every Child Needs to Learn
Episode 912nd March 2023 • How Not to Screw Up Your Kids • Dr Maryhan
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At some point our children will grow up and they will need to navigate adult challenges. They'll need to get a job, or start a business, manage their finances, cook, clean, learn to manage conflict, plan, prioritise, and so on and so on.

What are the skills they will need, and how can we better prepare them in childhood so we’re not leaving all the learning until adulthood?

Here are the highlights: 

(02:34) Striking up conversations with strangers 

(04:49) Building confidence in small steps 

(09:56) Making beds, laying tables and cooking meals 

(17:19) The lost art of the handwritten letter 

(20:17) How to answer a landline phone 

(25:36) The importance of life skills for children 

Purchase your ticket for the next 60-minutes with Dr Maryhan 'Preparing for Success; How to Help Your Child Set and Achieve Exam Goals' at 8pm GMT on the 7th of March.

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Transcripts

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Hello, and welcome to the how not to screw up your

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kids podcast. So pour yourself a cuppa, find a comfy seat and

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enjoy the conversation. This is episode 91. And in today's

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episode, live skills every child needs to learn. It's really very

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much brought to you after a conversation that I had with my

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eldest. So I wanted to share what my children have told me,

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they wish they'd learned as a child. So it's a culmination.

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And I have the wonderful gift of hindsight as my children are now

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adults. So I want to share with you what I've learned from them.

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I had a conversation with my eldest recently, and he's

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navigating the world of work, and beginning to carve out a

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career for himself, whilst my daughter is midway through her

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degree, and beginning to kind of need to have a think about what

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she might want to do afterwards. So in lots of ways, I'm sort of

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placed in this great, I'm in this great position to share

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with you the skills that they're needing to really kind of draw

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on in those aspects of life, that they're feeling that

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they're lacking, so that they're having to pick up which if I

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sort of think about it, how might I have been able to kind

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of give them a equip them with the skills taught them some of

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these things in their childhood, so that in lots of ways we're

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not leaving to, I mean, obviously, it's going to be some

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things that our children are going to have to learn when they

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become adults. But are there some rudimentary parts to what

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they've got to navigate in the job market, working with people

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dealing with difficult challenges, managing conflict,

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all of those things that potentially in some micro dose,

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we could have given them and sort of created that with our

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children. So this podcast episode is really, it's a list,

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it's not an exhaustive list. And the resource will be very much

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one that you can kind of add to, but it's a list that will

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hopefully give you a bit of a flavor of some of the skills

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that I've already taught my children, so they're on the

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list, but also ones I wish I had taught them when they were

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younger, rather than waiting until their later, sort of teens

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and even adult years, as I think it would have made their current

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adulthood challenges much, much easier. So they are literally in

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no particular order, I had a major brain dump, one day while

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I was out walking, which is often where my creativity comes

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in. So I've literally written a whole list. So the first one is,

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that I think is a life skill that I think is really crucial.

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Is our children being able to have conversations with people

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that they don't know, I think that's such an incredible life

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skill, which leads into this kind of, I don't know, I did

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wonder whether I should do this as a podcast episode all on its

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own. But we've often get into these huge discussions around

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forcing children to look at adults in the eye. No, this came

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up with a question in the membership a while ago. So

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there's lots of I remember when my children were younger, and

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they used to have to say goodbye to their teacher, there was a

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big thing made it about sort of looking the teacher in the eye

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and saying Thank, you know, good afternoon, or Thank you. So

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there's a lot of discussion around that. And I think that

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there is a huge merit in encouraging our children to be

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able to do that, you know, these are life skills. However, what I

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think is really crucial for us to remember is that our children

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can be naturally introverts or extroverts. And I'll take you

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back. I think we've talked about this in a previous episode. And

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quite often we have this misconception that confident

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children are extroverts. They're sociable, they like to be the

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life and soul of the party, they like to be with people.

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Actually, the key distinction between an introvert and an

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extrovert is simply where they get their energy from. So an

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extrovert is energized by being around people. So social

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situations really energize and boost and give them this, you

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know, it boosts their battery, it tops it up, an introvert can

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be just as sociable can enjoy being with people. The

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difference with an introvert is that being around people drains

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their battery. So if they're having a particular period of

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time, where they're around people a lot that drains their

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battery. So for them the way that they recharge, is having

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time on their own. So why does this why is this relevant to

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encouraging our children to look people in the eye? Well, I think

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we have to remember that if we've got children who are

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naturally introverted and extroverted, if we have children

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who are a little bit more shy, and they need a bit of time to

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warm up, then I think when we get into these scenarios of life

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skills, where we force our children in certain situations

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to look at that adult in the eye and answer their question,

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they're asking you something. There is merit in that, but we

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have to take our child through those incremental steps. So if

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we've got a child who's naturally shy, forcing them

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particularly in a public situation where they are on

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unfamiliar turf with an unfamiliar individual is not the

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best place to start teaching them that particular life skill,

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we are much better recognizing if we've got a shy, introverted

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child, that how can I build that confidence about looking someone

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in the eye and beginning to have that conversation and answering

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their question, so I'm not speaking on their behalf, in an

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environment where they feel comfortable, which will be their

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home. So we start with that, can we try and create opportunities

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or seize opportunities more like when we have people coming into

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our home that our children know so that could be about family,

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it could be aunties, uncles, grandparents, where we encourage

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them to practice looking those adults in the eye and answering

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questions and starting conversations, we can start with

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that familiarity so familiar to familiar people, and then begin

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to build up on that ladder to familiar territory, unfamiliar

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people, and the pace with which we go through these, we can take

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our child's pace, if we're really aware, and start thinking

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about and I really hope that this podcast episodes begins to

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create a bit of a reflective practice in yourself, but also a

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discussion within your home with your partner, and also with your

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children about what might some of these skills be? Can we start

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writing a list of these skills, maybe start using some of mine,

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maybe add some that you can really make a conscious effort

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to start working on? If we know that these are the building

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blocks to raising that confident adult, that adult that's able to

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navigate that workplace? Then we can begin to start looking at

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how might I sort of begin to equip my child with that

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particular skill? How might I help them? Where do I need to

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start? And for some of these life skills, you'll be hopefully

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rather smugly listening and thinking, My child has already

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knows how to do that. That's great. But also start looking at

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some of the other ones. And if there are some big skills, which

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I think particularly around being able to hold conversations

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with people they don't know, and beginning to, to look people in

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the eye and welcome them to your home, then we can start looking

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at how can we build the pieces for that particular puzzle

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because our children in adult life are going to find

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themselves in situations where they're going to have

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conversations with people that they don't know, in a workplace.

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But they're also potentially going to make small talk and

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conversations in social situations. So the more

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comfortable they are with these things, the better. And

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particularly around this thing of eye contact, let's not get

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too caught up in the eye contact as the first thing. If you've

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got an extroverted child who really flourishes in social

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situations, and feels really comfortable having

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conversations, then add those layers in. But don't do that as

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a starting point if you've got a shy, more introverted child, so

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we've got this idea about having conversations looking at people

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in the eye, I've got boil an egg. Now the reason why some of

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these ones that you might kind of think, why are they on there

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is that both my children having now been through that university

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experience, couldn't quite believe how many people in their

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initial sort of dormitories that they were in, in their halls at

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university, they, they were astounded at the number of

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people that they mixed with, who didn't have some of the very,

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what I would call absolute rudimentary life skills that

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I've taught them both that they then found really quite

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interesting. They couldn't understand how friends didn't

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know how to do certain things like boiling an egg, boiling

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pasture. So I think, obviously, if you've got children that

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you're actively cooking with, and they're incredibly skilled,

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and some of these are going to be made really rudimentary

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thinking about what that why, but I think, if not, it's a

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really great starting point. It's looking at those sorts of

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things. So definitely boiling an egg, making their bed and making

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their bed as a regular thing.

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I this is something that I talk about so much. And I have

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battled with my children at various different times around

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this, but it's a it's a practice, it's about a setting

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intention. It's about having that bed, absolutely. Our

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children being responsible for that, but what making the bed

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signifies which my children have been nagged to do since a very,

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very young age, but have really only truly understood the

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significance of that. Starting the day fresh with a very clear,

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clean, organized, tidy bed, even if their bedroom is a complete

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and utter bomb site, then let's just start with a bed being

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made. It's a process of setting an intention for the day. So I

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think that's a really really good one and making their bed

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involves so many things. You know, part of that making the

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bed is obviously what they do on a daily basis. But part of it is

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also being able to put a pillowcase on a pillow to put a

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fitted sheet. And if you don't have fitted sheets, then it

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loose sheets and having to put duvet covers on do vase. All of

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these things are such crucial life skills, that you know that

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that's a really important aspect. So making their bed but

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not just making their bed but being able to actually pull the

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bed together. in lots of ways, lay a table, but not just lay a

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table, I think layer table in lots of ways, but layer table

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from a function, sort of perspective of being able to lay

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the table so that there's knives, forks, plates, glasses,

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those sorts of things, but also how to lay a table when you're

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having a special occasion, maybe lay a table and have placemats

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names. If you have family over, it probably feels over the top,

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but why not have name plates? You know, the little name tags?

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And where would you place people? And how would you think

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about it and have those sorts of considerations? It's not

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necessarily that we're expecting our children to have huge dinner

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parties. But it's planning isn't it? It's considering what are we

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going to eat? What do utensils that we might need? How might we

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prepare and plan for that, and it begins to teach us them some

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of those skills around planning and forethought. Do I think

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laying a table is brilliant is such a crucial one. Sewing is

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such a really, really brilliant one. And I think with the

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sewing, I'm not talking about sewing, for pleasure in terms of

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dressmaking or making shirts or trousers. Of course, if your

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child is passionate about that, then you take it to that degree

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but sewing at the basic level how to sew a button back on when

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it falls off how to sew a hem back up. If the hem falls off,

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you know becomes unpicked on our trousers or on our skirt. It's

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you may go as far as donning socks, I've not quite gone there

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myself, but you may choose to do that sewing on sort of name,

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plates and tags on to school uniform. The basic things that

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most of us do without thinking about, you know, making good,

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but I think sewing can be a really, really good thing. It's

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a great life skill, cooking a meal. Now when I mean cooking a

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meal, we can go to different levels of cooking a meal. So it

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might be a basic pasta with a little bit of butter, or it

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could be a more sophisticated. But when we cook a meal, it's

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not just the actual cooking, it's the planning, it's the

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grabbing the recipe, it's the shopping, it's the budgeting,

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it's the working at how many people am I going to be making

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that for? What are the things that I need to maybe sequence.

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So it's all of the components around that because cooking a

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meal is really great, particularly when we start

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adding the budgeting for our children, whether they're going

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to leave home and go to university or just leave home

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and have to sort of budget and plan for themselves. One of the

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challenges, I've done this a couple of times with mine, where

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I've set them a challenge in a school holiday, if you have a

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budget of x, you need to plan the meals for a whole day, you

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need to source and look where you're going to collect all of

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these various different these various different things, and

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then plan and organize. So I think cooking a meal, at its

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basic level is just being able to put some ingredients together

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in terms of them making a meal. But I think it's so much more

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complex than that, because we can start looking at costings,

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sourcing recipes and other things. And that's such a

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crucial, crucial aspect, washing laundry, I think that is such a

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good one. And again, with the washing laundry, it can take

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multiple different levels is it just simply that they place?

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Let's start with just placing items into a laundry basket so

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it can then be placed and ready to then be used to then go into

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the washing machine? But then can we start teaching them some

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of the subtle nuances. And I have to say I'm still teaching

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one this about separating whites from colors. But sometimes they

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learn the consequences when they blurred something but something

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it's very colorful, what it then does to their white socks. But I

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think that that again is really a helpful thing about it. What

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what temperatures, do we wash things that way? If we're trying

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to be more environmentally friendly? Can we wash things at

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lower temperatures? What do we actually need to put in the

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washing machine? How does that work? So it's all of those sorts

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of things that I think are really, really useful. The other

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one that I've got here is about presenting their case for a

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debate.

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Mealtimes are in my house quite often a They're obviously a

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functionary thing we sit and eat but it's also a great time to

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connect and come together. But we also quite often get into

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very long discussions or actually not even a long

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discussions but quite heated discussions where we've got

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opinions. I think if we can, you can either do this in a very

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orchestrated While you can just expand on it when you're having

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a discussion at mealtimes, but I think it's a really crucial

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thing for our children to learn how they can present their case

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on a particular subject. So it could simply be your children

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presenting their case for why they should be able to eat

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chocolate anytime of the day, or presenting their case where they

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should be able to go to a party and not come home until

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midnight. I think really encouraging our children and not

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shutting them down, when they're trying to put their case forward

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for something that they want to do is really helpful because so

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much of what they're going to do an adult life in terms of

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presenting themselves for a job interview presenting themselves

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in terms of, if they're going to go to university and a personal

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statement, or an apprenticeship or whatever are children going

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to do, at some point, they're going to need to present their

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argument about something and why they're trying to persuade

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people to see things from their perspective. So if we can begin

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to encourage those sorts of natural discussions at the

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table, and really help our children and picks up, tell me

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why you think you should be able to come back from the party at

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midnight, tell me why you think you should have a mobile phone

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and you're eight years old, tell me why you think you should have

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this particular social media platform, whatever it is, I

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think we should see that there's great merit in having that

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discussion and expanding it and encouraging our children to be

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able to do these things, because they are life skills. And I

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really want you to be thinking about when you're adding to your

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list for the resource that we're going to give you is what are

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the things that you're sort of thinking about that I've not

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even considered that would be really good life skills. We're

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preparing our children for jobs, and careers, and situations that

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we might not necessarily know yet. We might not know what

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careers are going to be waiting for our five year old when they

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come to that point. So it's really thinking about what are

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the real just general life skills that will help them

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function as an adult, be able to live independently provide for

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themselves financially, budget, and make aspirational choices,

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make purchasing decisions, all of these things? You know, I

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want us to take us through, you know, to take it right back and

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to think about it in that way. So presenting a case for a

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debate is really helpful. You know, I just think writing a

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hand written letter, you know, quite often our children will

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write and create cards when they're younger, but I think we

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quite often lose the art of writing letters. And actually,

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there's something quite incredible about receiving a

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handwritten letter. And maybe I'm being a bit old fashioned.

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But I just think that a handwritten letter is a really

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lovely skill for our children to have. And obviously, when our

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children are much younger, that we they generally often create

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their own cards, which I think is wonderful. For some families,

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we might then encourage them to write thank you letters, even if

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they're very young, as a way of being appreciative of, of gifts

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that they may have got for their birthday or for Christmas. And I

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just think moving on in terms of being able to write a

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handwritten letter, I think is just a beautiful skill. I think

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maybe it's a dying art. But I think I know that when I receive

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a handwritten letter, that it just means a lot. And I think

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certainly as we're becoming more and more tech savvy, I think

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it's a beautiful thing for your children to be able to do. I

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know that my to do it periodically. And it's always

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really, really well received. And it may be that you, you

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listen to this and you think do you know what the handwritten

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letters a bit archaic Mary, and I'm not getting there. That's

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fine. But I think it's a really beautiful thing to be

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encouraging our children to do, because I think it's a great

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life skill. And I'd hate to see it sort of die out. So what else

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have I got, I've got ride a bus or a train solo. I think that's

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such an important life skill. And we can obviously a lot of

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children will end up doing that when they go on to their senior

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or their secondary schools. But for some it doesn't happen. They

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get driven everywhere. And I think it's really, that's just

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great for them to be able to do that. I've also got on here to

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be able to introduce themselves to someone they don't know. So

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being able to say hello, my name is. And I think that that is

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very close to this having these conversations, but I think

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that's a really great skill in all aspects not even in terms of

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adulthood, when our children are find themselves in new

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situations. Maybe they're taking part in a new club or an

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activity, or they're going on a school residential trip or

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they're transitioning to a different school, having

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practice at a very young age, to be able to introduce themselves

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to someone that they don't know, is so helpful to E some of those

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situations because they feel less nervous. And what I would

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say with some of these life skills is introduce them when

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your child is ready. And you're able to, because the sooner you

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introduce them without being overly sort of stressful about

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it, the sooner that you're able to do that, and when your child

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is ready and is comfortable to do it, the easier it is, because

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then there's going to be more situations as they get older,

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where those things will come into play. So I think that

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that's a really, really good one. Now, I have got on here,

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answer a telephone, because I can remember being taught by my

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mother, how to answer our landline. Now, I would say that

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our landline is never used. So obviously, that isn't the case.

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But it's also a great skill for when they answer their own

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mobile telephones. I don't know what the etiquette is that in

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terms of nowadays, I know that I was taught to say the telephone

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number and say, Please cannot ask who's calling. But it

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doesn't matter. There is no hard and fast rule, but just the

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ability to not feel incredibly nervous when it comes to

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answering the telephone, because I have a theory about this. So

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my children at the time of recording are 23 and 19. And I

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know that both of them found it really, really difficult to make

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phone calls. And also to pick up telephone, the telephone, it was

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something that they really didn't enjoy doing, they became

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quite nervous around doing it, but they're incredibly confident

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and so many other areas. So there is something I feel,

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please write in. And let me know if you think otherwise, about a

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generation where we don't generally use a landline in the

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same way anymore. And a generation that have got mobile

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devices as a way of communicating where they

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typically tend to message rather than pick up a telephone and

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actually have conversations, I'm that bid considerably older. And

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so of course, my conversations that happened with my friends,

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outside school happen had to happen on a landline was a phone

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call, and you would have those discussions or you would meet

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physically in person, we had no other medium in which to

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communicate. I think a lot of children now because they

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communicate via messages. And in those sorts of formats. They're

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not as familiar around making those phone calls and having

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feeling comfortable and confident around having

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telephone conversations. And yet, as they get older, they're

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going to need to do that they're going to need to make calls.

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When their washing machine breaks down, they're going to

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need to make calls around looking for jobs and job

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applications. There is so much that is so much more quickly

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done by picking up a telephone and making a call that if we

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have children, a whole swathe, and a whole generation of

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children who are finding the whole concept of the telephone

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in terms of speaking through it to speak to somebody really

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difficult, then the better we can equip them, the sooner that

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we equip them, the earlier that we do that, the better. So I

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think that's a really,

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that's a really good one. I've got ordering at a restaurant.

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Now some of you will be listening to the same. My

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children have no problem with that. But I know so many

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children who are debilitated and so incredibly nervous in a

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situation where they go to a restaurant and they're asked

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what to eat, or we jump in too quickly. And we order for them.

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So I think if we're able to encourage I think that's a

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massive life skill. So you might look at it, Maryann, what's so

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amazing about being able to order your food while being able

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to order the food is about having a conversation with

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somebody they don't know, they can practice eye contact if

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we're at that stage with our child. And it's that

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familiarity, that projection of their voice, their courtesy, or

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in maybe week they can, we can encourage them to begin to have

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a bit of a conversation. But I think that is a really great one

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to encourage our children to do. Of course I've got on here about

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being able to swim, I think it's a really crucial one, being able

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to learn to ride, being able to ride a bicycle, being road aware

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so that they can then take themselves places independently

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and be able to do that. I've also got some other ones that I

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think are slightly quirky ones. But I think it's really

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important that our children are able to give someone a

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compliment. Because I think that joy being given to other people

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is such a wonderful, beautiful thing that we can encourage our

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children and not in a false way. But I just think it's a really

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lovely thing to be able to do is to be able to give someone a

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compliment. And I also think it's really important if we're

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going to encourage our children to give a compliment is we want

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to encourage our children and teach our children the life

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skill of being able to accept a compliment. And I would imagine

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that that's a life skill that as you're listening to this

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yourself that you probably are still working on. But I think

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that there is a really great ones about how much joy it

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brings to somebody, but also the ability to accept a compliment

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as is and simply say thank you without any butts without

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anything else. You but just to accept it as it is. And I'm just

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going to leave you with two more because I could really go on and

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on the list is endless. But I really want you to be able to

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kind of, I want this to be a starting point. And for you to

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be able to add some and I would love it, if you've got some that

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you're happy to share, do share them because I think, and I've

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only just decided this as, as I'm reading the about to read

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the last two out, I think it would be a really lovely list

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for us to continually update, it may end up that it has hundreds

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of lifeskills on there eventually. But I think shared

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knowledge will be great. And we can always keep updating it. And

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we can periodically just kind of check in, in the podcast, and

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add some of these in in some of the discussions. And the idea is

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that these are when you're a slightly at a loose end. And

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your children are bored, that you can look back at these life

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skills and think of what what might we tackle in this this

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week of holidays, or in this week, particular weekend. So

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these two I've probably talked about previously. But I do

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believe it's a really important life skill that we teach our

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children around managing money. It's that being able to

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understand, obviously, that money is a means by which we can

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purchase things, but how they can use money to save how they

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can look at a proportion of money that they're given and

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ways that they can look at you know, what proportion, should I

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be looking at spending immediately? What proportion,

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could I look at saving for something longer term? What

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proportion can I put away for a rainy day so that they begin to

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create a good and healthy relationship with money that

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starts when they're younger? Because I think that that's such

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a crucial thing for children to know in terms of that life

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skill. And the last one that I'm going to leave you with is to be

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able to find something which genuinely gives them pleasure.

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Now, I don't want us to get caught into this trap of our

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children finding a career that is truly fulfilling or their

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life's purpose, what I'm talking about with finding something

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which genuinely gives them pleasure, or is it something

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that is a genuine way of them being able to switch off

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something that they enjoy doing for the sake of doing rather

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than they enjoy doing that. And we suddenly want them to become

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world class at it, it's helping them find something that they

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can get lost in that is their go to that is that relaxation, and

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it will change no doubt and evolve as they get older. But I

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do think when you think about yourself as an adult, and what

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you can get lost in, I think was probably something we don't

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typically cultivate. But if we can cultivate that as children,

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we're likely to bring that into our adulthood, because we can

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see the benefit of that, in helping keeping us grounded,

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helping us find that time to unwind. And just simply be and

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to discharge. And when we place value on something, and when we

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place an emphasis on something, then it's much more likely to

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happen. So I do think that that's a really crucial one too.

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Now, I'm not going to recap all of the different ones because I

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came covered so many, but my gift this week will be this list

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and space for further items for you to write down. And I really,

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really would love you to reach out to us with some of the

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things that you you consider a life important life skills. And

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of course, I would imagine in today's time, I could probably

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think of another 20. But I wanted to I just felt that this

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was the right time to do this particular episode. And I didn't

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want to leave it to keep adding more. So I'm going to give you

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this checklist this whole list for you. And we will leave space

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that you can add on. As always you head over to my free

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resource library at Dr. Mary han.com forward slash library

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where you'll find the link to download this resource and of

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course all the links to all of my other resources from all the

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other podcast episodes. All you need to do is pop in your email

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address and you'll then have access to all of those as ever

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if you have enjoyed this episode, I would love it if you

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could follow and review this podcast so the others can find

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us and we can spread the love. So until next time

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