Life skills are abilities for adaptive and positive behaviour that enable us to deal effectively with the demands and challenges of everyday life, in other words psychosocial competency. They are a set of human skills acquired via teaching or direct experience that are used to handle problems and questions commonly encountered in daily human life. The subject varies greatly depending on social norms and community expectations.
Enumeration and categorization
The UNICEF Evaluation Office suggests that "there is no definitive list" of psychosocial skills; nevertheless UNICEF enumerates many "psychosocial and interpersonal skills generally considered important". Life skills are a product of synthesis: many skills are developed simultaneously by and in practice, like humor - to relax and get back in an optimal state of functioning.
For example, decision-making often involves critical thinking ("what are my options?") and values clarification ("what is important to me?"), (How do I FEEL about this?"). Ultimately, the interplay between the skills is what produces powerful behavioral outcomes, especially where this approach is supported by other strategies
Life skills can vary from financial literacy, through substance-abuse prevention, to therapeutic techniques to deal with disabilities such as autism.
Some of the important life skills are:
- Decision making
- Problem solving
- Creative thinking/Lateral thinking
- Critical thinking/Perspicacity
- Effective communication
- Interpersonal relationships
- Self awareness/mindfulness
- Coping with stress, trauma and loss
Life skills curricula designed for K-12 often emphasize communications and practical skills needed for successful independent living as well as for developmental-disabilities/special-education students with an Individualized Education Program (IEP).
Parenting: A venue of Life Skills nourishment
Life skills are often taught in the domain of parenting, either indirectly through the observation and experience of the child, or directly with the purpose of teaching a specific skill. Parenting itself can be considered as a set of life skills which can be taught or comes natural to a person. Educating a person in skills for dealing with pregnancy and parenting can also coincide with additional life skills development for the child and enable the parents to guide there children in adulthood.
Many life skills programs are offered when traditional family structures and healthy relationships have broken down, whether due to parental lapses, divorce or due to issues with the children (such as substance abuse or other risky behavior). For example, the International Labor Organization is teaching life skills to ex-child laborers and at-risk children in Indonesia to help them avoid and to recover from worst forms of child abuse.
Models: Behavior prevention vs. Positive development
While certain life skills programs focus on teaching the prevention of certain behaviors, they can be relatively ineffective. Based upon their research, the Family and Youth Services Bureau, a division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services advocates the theory of Positive Youth Development (PYD) as a replacement for the less effective prevention programs. PYD focuses on the strengths of an individual as opposed to the older decrepit models which tend to focus on the "potential" weaknesses that have yet to be shown. The Family and Youth Services Bureau has found that individuals who were trained in life skills by positive development model identified themselves with a greater sense of confidence, usefulness, sensitivity and openness rather than that of preventive model.
- Coping (psychology)
- Defence mechanisms
- Emotional intelligence
- Psychological resilience
- Emotional literacy
- Emotional self-regulation
- Moral development
- People skills
- Social skills
- Social emotional learning
- Social intelligence
- Soft skills
- Study skills
- Theory of multiple intelligences
- Positive psychology
- Vocational skills
- World Health Organization
- Best Thomas - A study on stress and its correlatives with family environment.
- "Global evaluation of life skills education programmes" (PDF). http://www.unicef.org (Evaluation Report). New York: United Nations Children’s Fund. August 2012. p. 9. Retrieved 2014-09-02.
While there has been convergence on what the broad groups of core psychosocial skills might be, there is no definitive list or categorization of the skills involved and how they might relate to one another.
- USA Funds Life Skills
- Puget Sound ESD: Pre-K-12 Life Skills Curriculum Guide
- Improving Vocational and Life Skills of Ex-Child Labourers and at Risk Children Aged 15 to 17 Years