Every time I read or hear about suicide, especially amongst adolescents, because of their inability to deal with the realities of life, I find myself freezing with fear. I can’t help but think how devastating it must be for the parents to reconcile with why suicide was the only option for their child.
What freezes me more is that once the deed is done, there’s no return, no way to make amends or relive moments or do things differently. The finality of the act and ensuing guilt, hurt, pain feels paralysing. I fear for my daughter. I struggle to think how I can raise her to have the skills so that no matter what life throws at her, she never feels the need to contemplate suicide as an option, ever.
While undertaking a certification course on Life Skills with Muktha Foundation, an initiative committed to prevent abuse and promote mental health, I had the opportunity to speak to Ashwini N.V, their Founder-Director about the importance to Life Skills and why they’re essential for parents to teach their children.
How do you define Life Skills based on your experience of working as a mental health professional?
I consider ‘Life Skills’ as a collective term used to refer to our abilities to effectively engage with everyday deeds, and competently address challenges in our daily life. As a mental health professional, I would consider life skills as our psychological resource, which plays a crucial role in determining the overall quality of our lives.
Why do you think Life Skills are important to living a healthy life?
Life skills are the building blocks of our abilities to not just survive and live, but to thrive in our lives. Making attempts to consciously build life skills can have a positive, holistic impact and help prevent, address, and resolve both intra-personal, and interpersonal challenges.
Between the broad categories of life skills: cognitive skills, personal skills and interpersonal skills, is there a hierarchy?
Different professionals/organisations categorise life skills differently. I would consider personal, cognitive and interpersonal skills to overlap with each other than form a hierarchy. However, when we’re speaking to parents to nurture these skills in children, we encourage them to focus on personal and cognitive skills first, then emphasise on interpersonal skills. However, as children grow, equal emphasis must be laid on all aspects. Once the sense of self is certain, interpersonal skills usually stabilise better.
What is the gradual progression of crucial life skills to teach children to help them deal with their dynamic lives?
I am a firm believer in instilling the following four skills: self-awareness, empathy, assertiveness, and resilience. Self-awareness is our understanding of ourselves. Empathy is our ability to understand others perspectives. Assertiveness is our ability to defend our rights without violating the rights of others. Resilience is our ability to bounce back after a failure, closely linked to our ability to adapt to a new circumstance. Parents must create opportunities through dialogue and activities for their children to imbibe these skills.
What do parents find challenging with the concept of life skills? What misconceptions do they hold?
One of the mistakes parents do is to believe life skills can only be taught with them talking and children listening. Life skills are best taught via demonstration. Meaning, if a parent can keep using life skills intentionally and mindfully, children have their way of observing and modelling the same behaviour if they notice it working for their parents. This then can be coupled with dialoguing on the topic.
Bringing up children is still primarily seen as the mother’s responsibility, how can fathers be effectively engaged in the same?
Parenting has to be a joint endeavour. It is not a ‘gender role’ driven process. While there might be differences with respect to which life skill gets more demonstrated by a father or mother depending on their sociocultural milieu, the responsibility to teach life skills must be shared equally by both. I feel fathers need not be ‘engaged’ in imparting life skills to children, instead, they must voluntarily assume responsibility to do the same. Couples must have a discussion regarding the sharing of parental responsibilities way before the child is born.
Nurturing children to do the “right thing,” continues to be the underlying theme of most parental philosophy. How relevant is this when seen from the life skill perspective?
Parents should focus on building life skills in children which will encourage them to do the ‘right thing’. The focus should be on values and skills which will lead to an authentic action. Instead, if we just focus on getting the behaviour right, there is a major risk of this right behaviour not being exhibited in our absence. Let the focus be on the right set of values and skills, so the right action will follow by default.
What is the relationship between financial literacy and healthy relationships?
As parents, if we are not financially literate, it is most obvious that children will assume we are ‘preaching without practising’. Basics of budgeting, savings, concepts pertaining to insurance, interests, credit etc. must be known to children. Even before this, couples must dialogue on financial matters and understand each other’s perspective. This is termed ‘Financial Intimacy‘ and is essential for couples. Information regarding financial management along with life skills such as effective problem solving, decision-making, and assertiveness are likely to ensure the financial stability of families which in turn reduces stress and enhances a healthy relationship.
Generally, academics are given more importance. In your view, how can life skills provide children with an effective orientation to influence their academic performance positively?
Ideally, academics must have life skills training implicit in it. All education essentially must be life skills education. Imagine, life skills as those set of skills, which help us understand how our past influences our present, and together, how it influences the future. Instilling life skills in children would make them understand how focusing on academics in the present influences their future positively. Their commitment to learning and engaging in academics is likely to improve if we also invest in training them on fundamentals of life skills.
(Don’t let your child struggle with the realities of life instead teach them how to live a better life was first published on Momspresso on 28 November 2018 / Was a featured post on Indiblogger on 10 December 2018 / Photo by Jordan Rowland on Unsplash)