Written by Patrice Comrie
What are life skills?
Simply put, life skills are the skills we need to deal effectively with the challenges we may come upon in life. There are many different life skills and people will prioritize these skills based on culture, age, geographic location, etc. So, a skill that is important to you may very well be useless to someone else.
One thing’s for certain, regardless of where you are from or what you believe, it is important to start cultivating life skills at an early age. “How can I do this?”, you might ask. Well, this can be accomplished through life skills education.
What is life skills education?
Life skills education is a form of education that focuses on developing personal life skills for children. Some believe that the best direction to study is to focus on these skills. Studies have shown that life skills education helps children to maximize their fullest potential. According to The 1990 Jomtien Declaration on Education for All, life skills are among essential learning tools for survival, capacity development, and quality of life. In essence, nurturing life skills in children now will help them to become successful adults tomorrow. Here are 7 essential life skills that will help your child succeed.
1. Critical Thinking
Critical thinking is a skill that is needed at every stage and in every area of our lives. It is the process of using focus and self-control to analyze information in order to reach a logical conclusion. Children are constantly taking in new information. Every day they must think about the new information they are receiving today, how it relates to the old information they gathered yesterday and how it affects what they had come to believe. It’s important to help children to develop critical thinking skills because this will help them to make good decisions and understand the consequences of their actions. So, the next time your child asks a question, don’t just shut them down because you think they ask too many questions. Encourage their curiosity, engage them in conversation about a topic they find interesting, and help them evaluate the information they learn from others or through their own research. These are just some of the ways in which parents can help develop problem-solving skills for kids.
2. Teamwork and Communication
Teamwork helps to develop normal social behaviors in children. Why is this important? Well, when was the last time you didn’t have to work with others? Whether we like it or not, we have to coexist with other humans here on planet earth. So, why not learn to get along with each other? It is, therefore, important to involve kids in some form of team activity; be it sports at school or family game night. Involving children in team activities is not only fun and interesting, but it also allows them to learn from an early age how to express themselves effectively and confidently to others. On top of that, it forces them to become active listeners, learning to consider what others have to say and empathize with how others feel.
3. Motivation and Exploration.
We were all born with an intrinsic motivation to explore the world around us. It’s the reason children will touch the very thing you tell them not to or ask you “why” a thousand times. It is our responsibility, as adults, to not nip this budding curiosity. It is important that you encourage this motivation by answering their questions with explanations. Allow them to figure out for themselves why things around them work the way they do or why a particular choice is better than the next. This will in turn help them develop a positive attitude towards learning. When a child discovers things for him/herself, learning is more rewarding and impactful. Simply telling a child what to do will only result in the child becoming reliant on extrinsic motivation every time there is a task to be done. Honing motivational and exploration skills in children will make them into self-sustainable adults.
4. Creativity and Innovation.
No two people are exactly alike. We all have our differences; however slight they may be. It is, therefore, crucial that the individual has an avenue to express him/herself. As such, creating a safe space for kids to freely express themselves is critical to their mental and emotional well-being. The development of creativity and innovation skills in children provides them with the opportunity to showcase who they are and to work on who they are becoming. Therefore, nurturing an innovative mind through creative activities is not only fun but will help children build their cognitive thinking skills. Many say creativity and innovation are the first steps to problem-solving as you must be able to think outside the box to come up with solutions to new challenges. Who would have thought that arts and crafts could teach a child so much more than meets the eye?
5. Self-Awareness and Adaptability.
We all came into the world without a sense of self or significance to others. It’s throughout our first year of life that we begin to recognize ourselves as separate and unique individuals. So how do we move from being completely unaware of who we are to having a complete and conscious understanding of and appreciation for ourselves? The answer is self-awareness and adaptability. As children move throughout the different stages of their lives, they become more cognizant of their own character, feelings, motives, and desires. This discovery of their individuality is constantly being shaped by the different circumstances they are faced with each day. As such, they must learn to expand their capacity to handle change, which is inevitable, while remaining true to themselves. Self-Awareness also helps one to identify gaps in self-management skills which maximizes productivity and performance overall.
6. Emotional Intelligence.
It takes a great deal of effort to handle emotions; many of us, as adults, still struggle with ours, and understandably so. It was not until recent years that more emphasis was being placed on emotional intelligence as a skill to be developed. Emotional intelligence encompasses self-awareness skills and self-management skills. In other words, simply recognizing emotions in ourselves and others is not enough, one must also learn to manage them effectively. As children grow, they experience different emotions and they may not be able to explain how they feel or understand why they feel the way they feel. This creates the perfect opportunity for adults to help kids understand these different emotional responses and how to handle them. No emotion should ever be labeled as bad, as anger oftentimes is. Children will grow up thinking that they don’t have a right to be angry. Instead, encourage them to express their feelings in an appropriate manner and to talk about what’s on their minds. Understanding and managing their own emotions will help them to learn how to interact with people and form and maintain meaningful relationships with others.
7. Global Citizenship.
With advancements in technology, people can now access the world in a shorter amount of time. As a result, people from diverse cultures are now having to share a common space, whether at school, work, or just about anywhere you go. It is, therefore, necessary that children are educated on global concepts as this will foster an awareness of globally shared experiences. Training kids to become global citizens helps them to understand the wider world and the role they have to play in it. It also teaches them togetherness, despite differences, respect for others, and responsibility for the environment.
As you are now fully aware, having good grades alone just won’t cut it. Children must, therefore, be well-rounded to lead a truly meaningful and successful life in today’s dynamic world.
Patrice Comrie is a facilitator at Shiminly.