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The importance of life skills for adolescents

Adolescents require a combination of cognitive and social skills to tackle their problems, and prepare for future challenges

Dr Garima Srivastava

Adolescence, a vital stage of growth and development, marks the period of transition from childhood to adulthood. It is characterized by rapid physiological changes and psychosocial maturation. While many adolescents are able to deal effectively with these challenges, some struggle more than the others. How well an adolescent deals with these issues is decided by a host of factors that include their personality, psychosocial support from the environment (that includes parents, teachers and peers), and the life skills that they possess.

Life skills or “the abilities for adaptive and positive behaviour that enable individuals to deal effectively with the demands and challenges of everyday life” (WHO), are understood to be an effective tool for empowering the youth to act responsibly, take initiative and take control. It is based on the assumption that when young people are able to rise above their, they are less likely to resort to antisocial or high-risk behaviours.

The ten core life skills laid down by the WHO are:

Self-awareness

Includes recognition of self, our character, our strengths and weaknesses, desires and dislikes. Creating self-awareness can help adolescents recognize when they are under stress or feel pressured. Self-awareness is often a prerequisite to effective communication and interpersonal relations, as well as for developing empathy with others.

Empathy

To have a successful relationship with our loved ones and society at large,it is important that we, during our adolescent years, learn to understand and care about other peoples’ needs, desires and feelings. Empathy is the ability to imagine what life is like for another person, and it is vital for communication. Empathy can help adolescents accept others who may be very different from them. This can improve their social interactions; not just in peer group interactions in classroom settings but also later in life, in situations of ethnic or cultural diversity.

Critical thinking

Is an ability to analyze information and experiences in an objective manner. Critical thinking can contribute by helping the adolescent to recognize and assess the factors that influence attitudes and behaviour, such as values, peer pressure and the media.

Creative thinking

Is a novel way of seeing or doing things that is characteristic of four components – fluency (generating new ideas), flexibility (shifting perspective easily), originality (conceiving of something new), and elaboration (building on other ideas).

Decision making

Is a skill that can help an adolescent deal constructively with decisions about their lives. Yound adults can learn to assess the diferent options available to them, and consider what effects these different decisions are likely to have.

Problem solving

helps in empowering the adolescent to look at a problem objectively, coming up with different options and weighing the pros and cons of the different options available.

Interpersonal relationship skills

help the adolescents relate in positive ways with people they interact with in their everyday lives. This may entail being able to make and keep friendly relationships with friends and family.

Effective communication

means helping the adolescents express themselves, both verbally and non-verbally, in ways that are appropriate to cultures and situations. This means being able to express opinions, desires, needs and fears and also includes the ability of being able to ask for advice and help in a time of need.

Coping with stress

as a life skill means recognizing the sources of stress in their lives, recognizing how this affects them, and acting in ways that help them control their levels of stress; learning positive coping styles and replacing passive with active coping mechanisms – this may may include changing their environment or lifestyle, and learning how to relax.

Coping with emotions

includes recognizing emotions within themselves and others, being aware of how emotions influence behaviour, and being able to respond to emotions appropriately. A important aspect of this skill is learning to manage intense emotions like anger or sadness that can have negative effects on our health if we do not respond appropriately.

Dr Garima Srivastava is a Delhi-based clinical psychologist with a PhD from the All India Institute of Medical Sciences.

This article was first created and published by White Swan Foundation , edited for The Live Love Laugh Foundation

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