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Life Mantra
Anu Goel
Life skills in adolescence 05 February, 2017
School educates us on the laws of physics and makes us aware about the Mayan civilisation that once existed. We learn how to do mathematical applications and write essays in a given amount of time. However, something very important that no one teaches us through text is how to deal with life.

Nowadays, education has become more achievement oriented than child oriented. We are keener at making a child more capable of earning a living than making him more competent at living his life at his full potential.

In the times of rapid globalisation and urbanisation, life skill education has become even more important to help youth cope with the ever growing challenges of life. Life skills empower an individual and teach him how to live life efficiently. They help inculcate abilities for adaptive and positive behaviour.

Although these skills may vary from culture to culture and depend on social norms and community expectations, their crux remains the same - enabling individuals to lead better lives. Life skills also vary depending on a person’s circumstances, beliefs, age, location etc.

Adolescence marks the transition from childhood to adulthood. This is one of the most important and formative periods of our lives. We go through physiological and psychosocial changes that often lie beyond our scope of understanding. 

The decisions made during this period shape our personality which in turn moulds our life. It is the stage where we discover ourselves and the world around us. These are the years of experimentation, exploration and risk-taking. Therefore, it makes us all the more vulnerable and prone to making uninformed decisions on crucial issues based on our half way knowledge. 

It is the turning point in everyone’s life. Ergo, the youth needs to be educated about life skills such as thinking skills and social skills in order to help them develop their identity, manage their emotions, build relationships, become adept at effective communication and resisting negative peer pressure.

There is no definitive list of psychosocial skills. Any skill that makes our lives easier can be considered a life skill, however; the UNICEF has enumerated certain psychosocial and interpersonal skills that are essential for an individual’s well-being. Some of the important life skills identified through Delphi method by WHO are:

Decision making

All of us have to make decisions all the time, more often that we would actually like to. All our decisions have consequences - some are more harsh and severe than others. Proper decision making techniques can teach people how to make decisions constructively while correctly weighing all the possible options.

Problem solving

It helps us deal with the problems in our lives. Faulty problem solving can end up making us feel stressed, both physically and mentally. Also, the consequences we would have to suffer through would be very severe. We all could benefit from an effective way to solve all our problems.

Creative thinking/lateral thinking

Creative thinking refers to new and innovative ways of seeing or doing things. So, it has four components - fluency (generating new ideas), flexibility (open to change), originality (conception of new ideas), and elaboration (expanding other ideas). Several techniques such as brainstorming, mind mapping, role-play situations can help perpetuate creative thinking.

Critical thinking/perspicacity

It is the ability to think clearly and rationally, and being able to analyse information and experiences in an objective manner. It tests our skill to reason out the best possible outcome, come what may. We become capable enough to assess our own strengths and weaknesses and then act accordingly.

Effective communication

Communication means being able to transfer information from a source to a receiver. Effective communication ensures that we express ourselves suitably both verbally and non-verbally. How well this information is transmitted and received is the indicator of how skilful our communication is.

Interpersonal relationships

This involves keeping and making friendly and healthy relationships with people in our lives. However, it doesn’t only involve maintenance of relationships; it also includes proper healthy ways of ending one. Relationships provide great social, emotional and mental support.

Self-awareness/mindfulness

Self-awareness or self-introspection is the ability to observe one’s own mental and emotional processes. This helps us recognize our strengths and weaknesses. It is the stepping stone to emotional intelligence.

Assertiveness

It simply means to have a spine and being able to stand up for oneself or for someone else. However, it must be done in a calm and composed manner without getting aggressive or upsetting someone. The key is to get your point across without offending someone or raising your voice.

Empathy

Empathy is the ability to step in the shoes of another person and understand things and feelings from their point of view. It is extremely crucial to possess empathy in order to sustain a happy and successful relationship. Without empathy, communication would become one-way as we would be at a loss to understand the other person. It serves as the link between our self and others.

Equanimity

It is one of the most fundamental skills required for emotional intelligence. Equanimity is the state of stability and composure which remains undisturbed even when subjected to emotions, pain, or anything that might result in the loss of a composed mind.  If one learns to steady their mind amidst the strongest of storms, then no matter how big a storm might hit them, they shall not be shaken.

Coping with stress, trauma and loss

As we grow up, the amount of stress we have to deal with keeps on increasing. Coping with stress involves recognising the source of the stress and figuring out effective ways how to deal with it and learning how to relax.

Resilience

Change is the only thing constant in life. We must learn to adapt ourselves to those changes. Resilience is the ability to be elastic and get back into shape after being subjected to force. Resilience teaches us to get back up and face the set-backs and hurdles life may throw in our way.

Now, these sets of human skills can be acquired via teaching or through first-hand experience. More often than not, life skills are learnt through experience and practice. One can also learn about them by their parents. Some schools have also started teaching these skills in a separate class called “Life Skills Education”.

Whatever the mode of education may be, these skills will help a person well beyond the classroom. They will prove to be useful time and again throughout his life.

The article is authored by Anu Goel (Counselling Psychologist) and intern Bhavleen G Singh

About The Author
Mrs. ANU GOEL is a Counselling Psychologist. She has practiced in Mumbai for 5 years, and is currently practicing in Delhi since the last 7 years. Goel, who can be contacted at 9313320146 and anugoel75@gmail.com, is a member of the Counsellor's Association of India, and has been a guest speaker on several occasions.
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