How to Prepare Your Kids for Uncertain Futures

Strate­gic un­cer­tain­ty is when you don’t know what will hap­pen in the fu­ture because many things can change or af­fect your plans.

When uncertainty hits you, it can leave you anxious and unsure about how you can get back on your feet.

Like the pandemic that overcame us, our kids must face new challenges when they grow up. But hopefully, with fewer adverse effects than we experienced.

Luckily, there are many things parents and teachers can do to help children practice with uncertainty. You'll find some suggestions below.

Tips for Parents

Par­ents help their chil­dren de­vel­op skills to man­age strate­gic un­cer­tain­ty and their feel­ings so that they (now and as young adults) may know what to do.

For example:

  • Help¬≠ing¬†children de¬≠vel¬≠op a growth mind¬≠set (the be¬≠lief that they can learn new skills and im¬≠prove their abil¬≠i¬≠ties through ef¬≠fort and feedback). This can help¬†kids em¬≠brace chal¬≠lenges, over¬≠come set¬≠backs, and learn from mis¬≠takes.
  • Teach¬≠ing children¬†back plan¬≠ning¬†(setting re¬≠al¬≠is¬≠tic and flex¬≠i¬≠ble goals and breaking them down into man¬≠age¬≠able steps). This can help¬†kids feel confident despite uncertainty because they know how to¬†plan, pri¬≠or¬≠i¬≠tize their ac¬≠tions, and ad¬≠just their strate¬≠gies when need¬≠ed.
  • Sup¬≠port¬≠ing¬†children in de¬≠vel¬≠op¬≠ing crit¬≠i¬≠cal think¬≠ing and prob¬≠lem-solving skills and pro¬≠vid¬≠ing them with tools and re¬≠sources to find and eval¬≠u¬≠ate in¬≠for¬≠ma¬≠tion.

Growth Mindset

The belief that making mistakes is a great way to get the feedback you need to learn and improve your skills.

It's the only way we can learn in new situations that we don't know much about.

To Tips

Back Planning

The method that plans backward, step-by-step, from the end situation to the present situation. 

It's the best way to keep on course, regardless of the possible chaos around you.

To Tips

Critical Thinking

The skill of thinking carefully and clearly about a problem. It helps us make good choices by asking questions, looking at all sides of an issue, and using facts and logic.

It's the inclusive way to do what's best when the future is uncertain.

To Tips

Strategic Uncertainty Explained 

Strate­gic un­cer­tain­ty is when you don’t know what will hap­pen in the fu­ture because many things can change or af­fect your plans.

For ex­am­ple, if you want to start a lemon­ade stand, you might face strate­gic un­cer­tain­ty be­cause you don’t know how many cus­tomers will come, how much they will pay, what your com­peti­tors will do, or what the weath­er will be like.


How Can You Deal With Uncertainty?

To deal with strate­gic un­cer­tain­ty, you need to think about dif­fer­ent pos­si­ble sce­nar­ios and how you would re­act to them.

In the example of the lemonade stand, you could imag­ine what would hap­pen if it rains, if an­oth­er lemon­ade stand opens near­by, if peo­ple pre­fer a dif­fer­ent fla­vor, or if you run out of lemons.

Then you could plan for each sce­nario and de­cide what ac­tions to take. You also need to watch for signs that tell you which sce­nario is hap­pen­ing and be ready to change your plan if need­ed. This way, you can be more pre­pared for the fu­ture and take ad­van­tage of the op­por­tu­ni­ties or avoid the threats that strate­gic un­cer­tain­ty brings.

Thinking About the Future is as Simple as Drawing Your Dreams 

Inventor’s Car

Kawiphat Thonthaisong, a 7-year-old from Thailand, drew the ‚ÄúInventor‚Äôs Car‚ÄĚ and won a prize in Toyota‚Äôs Dream Car Competition.

The car is designed to be a garbage sucker. It will suck all the garbage in and transform it into new products so that people can reuse them again for their daily life. Recycled garbage products will also be donated to people who need to support their life usefully.

 This drawing exemplifies how kids can use their imagination and creativity to explore the future and develop foresight skills. Foresight is the ability to anticipate and prepare for what might happen in the future, based on current trends, events, and possibilities.

Go to the Dream Car Competition

Things Parents Can Do to Foster a Growth-Mindset

A Growth Mindset is…

A growth mind­set is the be­lief that we can learn new skills and im­prove our abil­i­ties through ef­fort and feedback. This makes us and our kids more resilient.

Here are two ways to foster a growth mindset in yourself and your kids:

  • Compete against yourself.¬†Set the example by¬†competing against¬†yourself to improve¬†your skills and achieve¬≠ments. Let your kids try to improve theirs, too. Celebrate successes and name and praise each improvement your kids achieve, however small, rather than you prais¬≠ing their in¬≠nate tal¬≠ents.
  • Explore different perspectives.¬†Make it a habit to¬†find and explore a va¬≠ri¬≠ety of ex¬≠pe¬≠ri¬≠ences and per¬≠spec¬≠tives within areas of¬†yours and their interests and passions.
I notice that you're interested in learning about different cultures. What do you enjoy about that? How can I support you in your exploration?

Cartoon to Watch

‚ÄúMonsters, Inc.‚ÄĚ is a 2001 American computer-animated comedy film produced by Pixar Animation Studios.

The movie tells the story of two monsters, Sulley and Mike, who work at Monsters, Inc., a company that generates energy by scaring children. But some monsters aren’t scary, and some kids just can’t be scared.

The movie constantly turns expectations and perspectives around and teaches kids that multiple perspectives are possible, fun, and sometimes required to solve problems.

Watch the trailer 

Game to Play

You will need two chairs and two people to play ‚ÄúThe Two Chairs‚ÄĚ game.

The chairs should be placed facing each other, and the two people should sit in the chairs.

Each person names the salient points behind the other person. They then switch chairs and share their own perspective.

This could help encourage kids to listen more closely to each other, find out how and why perspectives differ, and supplement each other.

More like this

Things Parents Can Do to Teach Kids Backplanning

Use Everyday Situations to Teach Backplanning in a Relaxed, Almost Unnoticed Way

Just ask­ children to think about dif­fer­ent pos­si­ble sce­nar­ios and how they would re­act to them.

For ex­am­ple, if children are plan­ning a birth­day par­ty, parents could ask them what would hap­pen if it rains, if an­oth­er par­ty is hap­pen­ing near­by, if peo­ple pre­fer a dif­fer­ent cake fla­vor, or if they run out of bal­loons.

Then parents could ask them to make a plan for each sce­nario and de­cide what ac­tions to take.

Parents could also ask them to watch for signs that tell them which sce­nario is hap­pen­ing and be ready to change their plan if need­ed.

I notice that you're interested in learning about different cultures. What do you enjoy about that? How can I support you in your exploration?

What to Wear to School

Back planning questions (ask the questions or turn them into a checklist):

  1. What is the weather forecast? (e.g., sunny, rainy, cold, hot)
  2. Are there any particular activities or events happening at school? (e.g., sports, presentations, field trips)
  3. What clothes do you have that are suitable for the weather and activities? (e.g., shorts and T-shirts for hot weather, warm layers for cold weather)
  4. Are there any specific dress code rules you need to follow? (e.g., no hats, closed-toe shoes)
  5. How can you express your style while following the dress code and being prepared for the day’s activities?
  6. What accessories, if any, would you like to wear? (e.g., hat, scarf, jewelry)
  7. What footwear is appropriate for the day’s activities and weather? (e.g., sneakers, rain boots, sandals)
  8. Are all the clothing items you’ve chosen ready and clean to wear?
  9. When should you start getting dressed to ensure you have enough time to put on your chosen outfit before leaving for school?

Get Better at a Board Game

Use getting better at a favorite board game to teach back planning. Ask these questions or turn them into an activity:

  1. What do you want to achieve when playing this board game? (e.g., win, have fun, learn)
  2. Can you explain the main rules and goals of the game?
  3. What are some good ways to win or do well in the game?
  4. How can you change your plans based on the cards you get or the numbers you roll on the dice?
  5. How can you guess what other players might do and plan for it?
  6. What are some tricks you can use to do better in the game?
  7. How can you change your plans when something surprising happens in the game?
  8. What can you do to stay focused and pay attention during the game?
  9. How can you learn from your mistakes and get better at the game for next time?
  10. How can you make sure everyone has a good time while playing the game?

Planning a Road Trip

Use visits to grandparents, friends, or the mall to teach back planning. Here are some questions you can ask or turn into a fun checklist:

  1. What is the main goal of the road trip? (e.g., reaching a destination, exploring new places, having fun)
  2. What interesting places or sights do you want to see on the way?
  3. How can you plan a route to include these places?
  4. What will you do if there’s bad traffic or the weather changes?
  5. Can you think of other routes to take if something blocks your way?
  6. How can you make sure you don’t get lost? (e.g., using a GPS, following road signs)
  7. What can you do if the GPS stops working or you can’t find a road sign?
  8. What things should you pack for the trip in case of emergencies or unexpected events? (e.g., extra clothes, snacks, a first-aid kit)
  9. How can you plan for rest stops and breaks during the trip?
  10. What can you do to have fun and enjoy the journey with your family or friends?

Things Parents Can Do to Foster Critical Thinking

Turn Helping Your Child Think Into a Habit

Teaching children to think critically from a young age helps them become more effective problem solvers and decision-makers and fosters their curiosity, creativity, and self-confidence.

As parents, you play a crucial role in nurturing your child’s critical thinking abilities, serving them well throughout their lives.

Here are some ideas that you can apply starting today:

  1. Providing opportunities for play, exploration, and creativity: Encourage your child to engage in activities that allow them to experiment, explore their interests, and think creatively, such as arts and crafts, building blocks, or imaginative play.
  2. Pausing and waiting before intervening or answering their questions: Give your child time to think through problems and questions independently. Resist the urge to provide immediate answers, as this encourages them to develop their critical thinking skills.
  3. Asking open-ended questions encouraging them to explain their thinking: Prompt your child with questions like, ‚ÄúWhy do you think that?‚ÄĚ or ‚ÄúHow do you know that?‚ÄĚ This helps them articulate their thought process and reasoning.
  4. Helping them develop and test hypotheses with experiments or observations: Encourage your child to make predictions and test their ideas through hands-on activities, such as simple science experiments, nature walks, or observing everyday phenomena.
  5. Encouraging them to look at issues from different perspectives and consider multiple sources of information: Teach your child to consider alternative viewpoints and explore various sources of information, such as books, articles, or conversations with others.
  6. Challenging them to analyze, evaluate, and synthesize information and ideas: Help your child practice critical thinking by prompting them to compare and contrast information, identify patterns and relationships, and draw conclusions based on evidence

Try this Card Game to Discuss the News With Kids

Teaching kids to think critically about the news is as easy as drawing a card.

Click the image to download a PDF with 16 cards that prompt kids to think critically. 

Ask the kids to print and cut the cards on good-quality paper. Ask them to read a news item from your favorite news app. Then let them take turns in drawing a card and answering the prompt.

When I do this, kids are eager to draw a card, and we have a lot of fun answering. Especially when kids can ask friends for help and use materials like Wikipedia, answering a question can become a true treasure hunt.

Teaching Foresight to Kids

The best book I know to help you teach Foresight to kids is the Futures Thinking Playbook. It is designed for students and teachers alike to help children anticipate and influence the future.

It’s interactive, fun, and opens minds to many possible and surprising futures.

Look Inside (on Amazon)