Covid and Beyond: The Power Of Life Skills

Illustration Credits:  Nicole Xu for NPR

By Wasim Rashid Kakroo

ACADEMIC achievement has frequently been used as the sole measure of learning and success, overlooking the fact that we also require non-academic abilities to assist us through life’s many problems. Such skills are known by various terms – such as life skills, soft skills, social-emotional skills, and psychosocial skills and refer to competences that are required to meet the challenges and demands of everyday life.

Existing research evidence from studies with adolescents and youth shows that life skills acquisition is linked to improved academic outcomes, enhanced educational goals and future aspirations, good parent-child relationships, improved behaviour, peer-pressure resilience, and positive coping mechanisms.

The enormous challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic have intensified the need to cultivate academic, social, and emotional competence holistically in young minds.

Due to school closures in Kashmir, most pupils must now rely on their own initiative to learn. Students have been compelled to make decisions about how, what, when, where, and why they would learn in order to determine their academic fate. The abruptness of the school closures exacerbated the problem, leaving most pupils with few or no learning tools. Even if learning is taking place remotely as is the case nowadays, students must remain disciplined and motivated in order to engage effectively. It is therefore critical that students receive support from both their parents and instructors in order to master soft skills such as time management, planning, and goal setting so that they can learn effectively at home. A timetable detailing the activities and scheduled time – academic, family duties, play – for a given day is one approach for pupils to stay focused and motivated to learn. To prevent students from engaging in haphazard learning activities, the timetable should include the precise topic to be learnt, the resources required (e.g. textbooks, the internet links), and the amount of time required for the learning activity. A second stage in determining the success of the learning activity could be completed, for example, by completing an exercise or writing key notes on a subject.

The other cardinal requirement is adaptability.  Education systems around the world are evolving and embracing the new normal. Governments are working nonstop to ensure that teaching and learning continue successfully throughout and after COVID-19 pandemic is over. In comparison with the traditional classroom, remote learning (internet, radio, and television) is growing increasingly popular. Students and parents, on the other hand, are/must adjust to the new arrangements. While change can be frightening, kids can improve their adaptation abilities by embracing new ways of learning, letting go of the “that’s how it’s always been done” mentality, learning from their mistakes, and seeking clarification from their instructors, parents, and peers in tough situations.

Yet another life skill is the art of negotiation which is perhaps the most important during these challenging times. Due to competition for limited resources, space, and division of household duties, working and learning from home has created friction in many households. Students must learn how to ensure that their interests and needs are addressed through mutual agreement in order to avoid conflict and confrontation. Giving all parties involved an opportunity to express their case and, as a result, arrive at an equitable settlement is an important feature of negotiation. As a result, effective negotiating necessitates clear communication and empathy.

Additionally, most people’s psychological wellness has been negatively impacted as a result of the pandemic’s uncertainty, which manifests as panic, anxiety, insomnia, stress, and depression. Adults may be able to navigate some of these challenges due to maturity and lived experiences, but for many young learners, the added frustrations of school repetition, halted final examinations, the prospect of finishing school older, reduced or lost contact with friends and restricted play present a significant psychosocial challenge if not addressed. For example, some students may drop out of school, engage in drug and substance abuse, or even commit suicide. According to the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, keeping social connections with friends and family through phone calls and video conferences and sustaining a healthy lifestyle through proper nutrition and exercise and reaching out to people you trust about your issues are some of the strategies to alleviate stress.

If left unchecked, school closures combined with boredom and inactivity during this pandemic might lead to negative peer pressure among pupils. This pressure stems from the influence of one’s peer group to act, behave, think, or look a specific way. For example, there may be a negative influence on drug and substance misuse, dropping out of school or avoiding learning, fleeing from home, porn addiction, and avoiding family tasks. Peer pressure is significantly worse during adolescence (12-19 years), when people are more likely to explore, take risks, and make rash decisions. As a result, children, adolescents, and young people should be encouraged to gain skills like self-assertiveness, or the ability to stand up for one’s own rights, ideas, and ideas. To put it another way, it’s the ability to say “No” when faced with excessive peer pressure. One method parents can help their children is by talking to them freely and honestly about the different social evils that they encounter so that they may make educated judgments about their social interactions and behavior.

Role of clinical psychologists in building life skills among youth:

Clinical psychologists as mental professionals are trained to understand the various facets of human behavior and also have an in-depth understanding of various dimensions of human relations. So, by nature, clinical psychologists are well equipped to train members of a community, be their policy makers, teachers or parents to help children and adolescents to learn various life skills.

Because life skills play such an important part in the development of holistic learners, policy makers, teachers and parents should ensure that their efforts can produce youth who are academically, socially, and emotionally competent so that they are able to handle their life during pandemic and post pandemic and clinical psychologists can very well help policy makers, school administrators, teachers and parents alike in building the life skills of youth.

  • The author is a practicing Clinical Psychologist and can be reached at [email protected]

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