What is meant by “life skills”?
Life skills include psychosocial abilities and skills that allow the person to deal with the challenges and pressures of everyday life on their own.The promotion of life skills is considered a successful approach in resource-oriented health promotion and prevention.
The World Health Organization (WHO) defined ten central life skills in 1994, which are mainly in line with the general skills in curriculum 21:
- Creative thinking
- Critical thinking
- Decision-making ability
- Problem-solving skills
- Effective communication skills
- Interpersonal relationship skills
- Coping with emotions
- Coping with stress
However, there isn’t any consensus on the exact number or categorization of crucial life skills, as these can vary depending on the health topic, culture, and setting.
What is meant by health literacy?
The topic of health literacy has received a lot of attention in recent years. Numerous research results suggest that health literacy has a significant influence on health, well-being, and the improvement of health equality.
The European Health Literacy Consortium defines health literacy as follows:
Health literacy is linked to education and encompasses the knowledge, motivation, and competencies of people concerning finding, understanding, assessing, and applying relevant health information in various forms for everyday use in the areas of disease management, disease prevention, and the Health promotion being able to make judgments and decisions that maintain or develop the quality of life throughout life.
In a European comparison, the Swiss population has problematic to adequate health literacy. In Switzerland, for example, many people find it difficult to assess and understand information on the subject of vaccinations. By promoting health literacy in schools, students can be encouraged to change behavior that is hazardous to their health.
The Interaction Of Life Skills And Health Skills Like
Various relationships can be found between the two concepts, but the interaction has not been conclusively clarified. For “health literacy” to improve, you need not only basic health-related knowledge (e.g., understanding of basic terms in biology; reading skills to understand the package inserts for medication) but also expanded skills on the perceptual-emotional level (e.g., active assumption of responsibility, self-awareness) and skills on the action-related level (e.,g. independent and critical handling of the multitude of information on the subject of health).
School health promotion and prevention contribute to improving health literacy.
- Imparting knowledge and necessary skills,
- Promotion of the motivation to want to behave healthily as well
- Strengthening life skills and other skills, such as self-efficacy.
Promote life skills
Knowing and assessing yourself well, getting along well with others, being able to deal with stress or conflicts in a variety of ways, and creatively – all of these skills are “life skills.” The promotion and strengthening of these personal resources are not only an essential educational goal in school but also the basis of health promotion and prevention. We have put together links and literature tips that will bring you closer to the concept of life skills and programs for school addiction – and present violence prevention based on this approach. And last but not least, GIVE materials are available that illustrate the promotion of life skills for schools in a practical way.
Risk factors, protective factors, and the life skills approach
Modern addiction prevention aims to strengthen personal and social resources and to reduce risk factors. Risk factors are personal characteristics and social circumstances that are common among substance users and addicts and which can be assumed to have an unfavorable effect on the development of addiction.
At the same time, personality traits and social constellations can be identified that reduce the risk of developing an addiction, i.e., act as protective factors. Protection factors are, for example.
- Communication skills, relationship, and conflict skills
- Positive self-image, realistic self-assessment
- Being able to shape your own everyday life, being able to occupy yourself
- Experience in solving problems
- Good relationships with parents, solid emotional caregivers
- Good social network, stable friendships
A conducive climate in school or at the workplace with manageable structures and appropriate requirements
Concept of life skills promotion
The concept of targeted promotion of life skills is based on this model of risk and protective factors. According to the World Health Organization, “life skills” are “those skills… which enable us to deal appropriately with our fellow human beings as well as with problems and stressful situations in everyday life”. The aim of promoting life skills is to strengthen children and young people in their self-esteem, give those strategies for dealing with stress and negative emotions and encourage them to be able to say “no” and resist group pressure.
Life skills promotion and addiction prevention in school
Life skills programs are universal measures, i.e., they are not designed for specific groups but are aimed at unspecific groups of people, e.g., a school class, whose members can have very different individual risk factors and previous experiences.
Successful addiction prevention measures in schools always consist of the promotion of life skills combined with factually correct and age-appropriate information on substances and addiction. One-sided and exaggerated presentation of the effects of substances and the dangers of addiction is implausible and can be counterproductive. Healthy everyday school life is also important: a good class and school climate, positive relationships with teachers and classmates, manageable structures and clear rules, etc.
Life Skills and Suicide Prevention
Suicide is part of the main causes of death in young people up to the age of 25. Strengthening self-esteem, improving conflict and problem management, and promoting life skills in general are – in addition to information and concrete help in acute crises – effective means of reducing the risk of suicide among young people. Programs to promote life skills can therefore make a significant contribution to suicide prevention, especially when they are combined with objective and taboo imparting knowledge about suicide.
A supportive and conducive environment in the school is also important. Schools with clear rules and expectations of learners and a school culture that does not tolerate destructive behavior such as bullying can help reduce the risk of suicide. Another important factor in suicide prevention is to help and advise schoolchildren in the event of problems and crises, e.g., through school social workers on site.
Ten Essential Tools On The Road Of Life
Being mentally healthy implies having a positive relationship with ourselves and with our environment.
This situation demands that we be able to actively interact in the social context in which we live and also adapt to the social demands that each stage of the life cycle demands. However, it is not always easy to function properly.
Think for a moment, when was the last time you were angry or sad? Did you manage to identify what you were feeling? And also, did you manage to manage this emotion? Do you remember the last big decision you made?
These situations are presented to us daily, among many others, and sometimes we do not know how to solve them.
The World Health Organization (WHO) since 1993 proposes as a health promotion strategy the development of 10 life skills and their teaching from the adolescent life cycle; if you did not know them, naturally you can practice them from now on and strengthen the relationship with yourself and with others, because these skills will lead you through life skillfully and competently, serving as a protective factor against situations that may arise along the way, providing you with knowledge, attitudes and strengthening your values, to face the demands and challenges that life puts before you.
- The domino effect
The domino effect consists of systematically placing a series of dominoes in a row, forming artificial figures and mechanisms. Only giving a slight push to the initial tile produces a chain effect that causes all the tiles to fall.
The same thing happens when you start by developing the first skill; the next ones come naturally.
- The ability to go step by step
The self – awareness is the ability to know our thoughts, reactions, and feelings; what do we like or dislike; what are our limits and our strengths or weaknesses.
- Empathy is to put yourself in the other person, better understand the other and, therefore, consistently respond to their needs and circumstances.
- Assertive communication is the ability to express clearly and adequately feelings, thoughts, or individual needs.
- The interpersonal relations are to establish, retain, and interact with others positively and to neglect those relationships that hinder personal development.
- Decision-making is learning to evaluate the different possibilities, taking into account needs and criteria, and studying the consequences that the different alternatives can bring, both in individual and other people’s lives.
- Solving problems and conflicts are looking for the most appropriate way out of a problem or conflict, identifying opportunities for change and personal and social growth.
- Creative thinking can look for different alternatives original way helping to make a decision
- The Critical Thinking raises questions, rethink, objectively analyze the situation existing in the most objective way possible to reach their conclusions about reality.
- Managing emotions and feelings is to recognize one’s own emotions and feelings and know how to influence, learning to handle the most difficult emotions like anger, sadness, aggression, among others.
The Management tension and stress is learning to know what causes tension and stress in life and finding ways to channel them to not interfere in our health.
Don’t forget that when we evolve…
We learn to learn.
We learn to be, we learn to live together, and we learn to do.
Strengthening life skills
The foundation of any health promotion initiative is taking into account the complexity of the person and the environment in which they live. The concept of salutogenesis, according to A. Antonovsky, directs our eyes away from illness towards the positive criteria that make health a treasure to be sought every day. By strengthening life skills in all dimensions of life, the individual is better able to understand what has happened, deal with it, and process it meaningfully. Strengthened and balanced life skills represent the best prevention against risks and dangers.
Social learning, personal development, self-awareness
Development and support of relevant initiatives and projects. They aim at a self-determined lifestyle and active participation in shaping social environments.
Folk dance is good for you … and moves from head to toe.
Dancing is not just movement; it is a transversal art that can create miraculous effects: in personal posture, in perception and understanding of traditions, in the class atmosphere, and much more.
A good class atmosphere (Youth Service)
To be able to teach the contents of the individual subjects, the climate and atmosphere in the class are of great importance, and that is why this initiative of the youth service is supported.
Addiction prevention promotes life skills – explicitly.
Knowing yourself well, getting along with others, and dealing appropriately with problems and stressful situations – all of these skills are referred to as life skills (WHO, 1994, quoted from Högger, 2012). The development and building of life skills are central to our health and well-being and the development of protective factors – also against problematic consumption and dependence. Why are life skills important for addiction prevention?
Skills for constructive problem solving (also actively seeking help) avoid the risk of using addictive substances as an alternative, compensation, and retreat
Self-esteem and self-efficacy help to integrate into the group and to resist “temptations” or pressure situations
Skills for active and meaningful leisure activities open up alternatives to high-intensity experiences.
What Is The Connection Between Self-Efficacy And Life Skills?
The conviction that you can perform certain actions that are necessary to achieve a specific goal as the result of successfully applied life skills. The training of life skills includes the practice of many actions to achieve a (health-related) goal.
How does the promotion of life skills work?
Evaluation results confirm the positive effect of life skills programs in addiction prevention. In particular, the prevented substance consumption of tobacco and alcohol among younger students in comparison to control groups and the delayed start of consumption of one to two years is to be seen as a success in terms of health policy.
This is what we do: to promote healthy personality development, we explicitly integrate the promotion of life skills into our addiction prevention projects and measures. Examples of this are the 3D projects “Durchblick,” “Weitblick” and “Perspective” or “1,000 treasures” in the primary school setting.
In the face of increasing demands, people do not only have to be made more and more resilient to “master their lives competently,” but experts must point out social risk factors to change them for the benefit of people.
Life skills programs work even better in combination with preventive approaches and a focus on children and young people with poor starting conditions and disadvantaged starting positions.
Life Skills Promotion In Early Childhood As A Measure For Addiction Prevention
Addiction prevention should start as early as infancy. Adults and caregivers can make a significant contribution to empowering children. The aim in childhood is to strengthen a person’s personality and prevent possible causes of addiction by promoting life skills at an early stage. Building a secure bond from the start is an important foundation for this.
In everyday family life, there are numerous opportunities to develop children’s personalities. This can be done, for example, through joint activities or with selected picture books. The following text gives you an overview of the basics of addiction prevention in childhood, as well as inspiration for everyday interaction.
Two approaches are of great importance for addiction prevention in childhood. On the one hand, the recognition of evasive behavior and, on the other hand, the promotion of life skills.
The evasive behavior
As a rule, children are not confronted with substance-related addictions themselves, but they can show evasive behavior from a young age. Evasive behavior is when a means (e.g., candy) or behavior (e.g., use of media) is used for a certain purpose other than intended in order to quickly convert an unpleasant feeling (boredom, frustration, anger) into an ostensibly pleasant feeling. Well-intentioned “distraction “maneuvers with toys or sweets may bring short-term success but do not help the child to learn to deal with life’s challenges and to regulate emotions appropriately. Parents and caregivers can accompany their children in these situations, recognize “negative” feelings, and provide orientation through comfort, interest, attention, and physical contact on how this situation can be solved well.
Promoting life skills In addition to recognizing evasive behavior, promoting life skills plays an important role in childhood. But what is mainly meant by the term life skills? These are skills that help you deal better with problems, difficult situations, and challenges. These are qualities such as empathy, dealing with stress, communication skills, or self-awareness.
The “protective screen” is a model to illustrate protective factors (= life skills) and risk factors and to describe their effects. In the course of individual lives, we acquire various life skills. Similar to how the umbrella protects us from moisture, these abilities protect us – depending on how many and above all in what quality we have acquired them – from so-called risk factors. Risk factors are conditions that disrupt psychological and physical development (e.g., negative role models, a lack of sense of belonging, etc.). Protective factors can mitigate the effects of risk factors. This healthy handling of challenges ideally leads to the fact that problems are later not “solved” with addictive substances or addictive behaviors.
In order to be able to imagine more about this, here are the most important protective factors and ideas for everyday family life.
This is understood to mean self-efficacy (trust in one’s own strengths), self-confidence (trust in one’s own abilities), and self (worth) feeling (who am I and how well do I know myself?) Of a child. Caregivers support ego strength if they take the emotional needs of a child seriously, promote strengths, transfer responsibility, and give them enough freedom. “The Most Important” by Antonella Abbatiello (available in German and in various second languages) shows diversity as an enrichment.
Dealing with feelings
Children should learn to recognize feelings, to name them, and find appropriate ways to live them out. The picture book “Today I am” by Mies van Hout – full of colorful fish, each expressing a feeling – helps even young children to find words for their feelings.
This is the ability to compensate for disappointments or postpone needs. Under the motto “Detours expand local knowledge,” children are allowed to make mistakes, be sure of the encouragement of their caregiver, and experience that disappointments cannot always be avoided.
Ability to Enjoy
Enjoyment means engaging in something that is good for you with all your senses. The ability to enjoy something helps to decide what is good for me as a person, what is no,t and when it is enough. “When have I had enough?” By Dagmar Geisler is dedicated to this question. Whether in the case of gummy bears or the use of media, it shows what can be too little – just right – or too much. In everyday family life, there are countless moments of pleasure (cuddling, talking, eating together, playing, arguing and reconciling, excursion,s, and much more).
Creativity and activity
Creativity means developing and implementing your own ideas. In free play, the child develops various kinds of problem solutions without the assistance of adults. The task of the caregiver is to create free spaces and an appealing environment for the child. The child has the opportunity to actively explore the world with all of their senses, but also to experience boredom.
The development of the body image occurs through interaction with the environment and is largely shaped in childhood. Children gain positive body awareness through a variety of ways to feel and experience their body, as well as through positive feedback from the environment. In “That’s me. I’ll show you” by Heinz Janisch, body parts are named, and special features are highlighted. The picture book closes with a look in a mirror and the sentence, “Everyone is a miracle in itself.”
This is understood to mean a multitude of skills in the area of communication, conflict resolution, and the behavior of children in a group. There is quarrel in every family – let’s not forget reconciliation. Through the positive role model effect of adults, children learn to deal with each other in an appreciative manner or also to find constructive conflict resolution.
Good relationships and a secure bond with a caregiver right from the start are crucial.
Let’s give our children a protective shield and offer them orientation in their personal development!
Life skills programs are a modern tool in school prevention work. What they have in similar is that they initially strengthen the personality and self-esteem of children and adolescents regardless of the specific prevention goal. It also gives you an awareness of the benefits of a healthy lifestyle. Life skills programs usually extend over at least half a school year or longer and, in the course of implementation, integrate specific prevention goals from different areas, such as addiction, AIDS, or eating disorders. Evaluation results show that strong girls and boys are demonstrably less susceptible to addictions.
Also read What are Coping Skills?