Facilitator notes:

The activities in these life skills workshops have all been adapted from the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, Africa Zone, Southern Africa “Sexual, Reproductive Health and Life Skills for Youth Peer Education - A guide for trainers of facilitators"

Life skills are psychosocial skills and abilities that make it is easier to meet life’s challenges and crisis events in a realistic, positive and constructive way. Life skills may be directed towards oneself and others, and in relation to actions in changing the environment. Life skills support psychosocial well-being, promoting good communication, positive thinking, analytical skills and goal setting, cooperation and coping.

Life skills help to reinforce a person’s sense of self as an individual member of a household, community and society. The stressors of a crisis event can disrupt the community and undermine an individual’s ability to handle situations. This can sometimes unfortunately result in psychological distress. However, when life skills are strong, individuals can understand and handle their reactions to abnormal situations and access capacities in supporting their recovery.

Most life skills are wide-ranging skills that can be used in many different contexts. For example, interpersonal skills such as negotiation skills can be used in resolving a conflict with a family member or a friend. They can also be used in discussing community issues at a local meeting or in debating terms of employment during a job interview. Thus, life skills learned and applied in one context can generalize across other aspects of life. Learning assertive communication, for example, within the safety of a self-help group, has the potential for changing relationships at home and at work, between family members, amongst colleagues, with peers. For example, very often Red Cross Red Crescent volunteers who learn active listening also report they have become better listeners in their daily lives.

Life skills can also have broader impacts than simply learning the skill itself. Learning to manage a budget can be a challenge for young people, for example, when they first leave home. If they struggle to make ends meet, they run the risk not only of financial hardship, but also of losing confidence more generally and of finding themselves suffering from low self-esteem. Deciding to change and to invest time in learning to manage a budget, however, can build competence and boost self-worth. In the process of succeeding in budgeting, young people therefore gain psychosocial benefits too.

Life skills can be grouped into three main categories: cognitive, personal and interpersonal.
All three groups of skills can help individuals cope with life and its changes. These categories are interrelated and influence one another. Feelings will influence how a person thinks, and how they think will also influence how they feel or act. A person can choose to manage feelings by altering the way they think about themselves, about others or the environment. Interpersonal skills are also influenced by how individuals think, and vice versa.

Cognitive skills

Cognitive skills and knowledge enable individuals and groups to:

   •   use culturally appropriate coping
   •   mechanisms
   •   analyse a situation, think critically and weigh pros and cons
   •   plan how to solve problems
   •   know how to make decisions in ways that are positive and appropriate to the situation
   •   evaluate future consequences of the actions of themselves and others
   •   know how to find relevant information
   •   use vocational skills
   •   advocate for rights for themselves and others.

Personal skills

Personal skills and knowledge enable individuals and groups to:

   •   be self-aware, i.e. know personal weaknesses, strengths and values
   •   be confident and have self-worth
   •   cope with feelings and needs
   •   be able to empathize
   •   manage stress
   •   cope with changes and challenges
   •   improve emotional well-being by knowing how to feel safe and develop trust in others
   •   set realistic goals for the future
   •   be able to create a sense of meaning.

Interpersonal skills

Interpersonal skills and knowledge enable individuals and groups to:

   •   build trust in others
   •   relate and build attachments to others, i.e. caregivers, family and friends, peers
   •   care for the well-being of others
   •   communicate effectively and avoid misunderstandings that leads to conflicts
   •   cooperate and negotiate
   •   solve conflicts peacefully
   •   listen and communicate assertively
   •   feel a sense of belonging to a community
   •   practise cultural activities and traditions
   •   participate in appropriate household responsibilities and livelihood support.

This grouping of life skills corresponds broadly to the three domains of skills and knowledge, emotional well-being and social well-being in the Inter-Agency Guide to the Evaluation of Psychosocial Programming in Humanitarian Crises, 2011.

Strengthening psychosocial life skills can impact life in multiple ways. It helps young men to manage challenges and risks, maximize opportunities and solve problems in co-operative, non-violent ways. It also teaches young men how to cope and recover after accidents, violence, incidents of suicide, natural and man-made disasters or during armed conflict, war or epidemics. Life skills help young men to make informed decisions, solve problems, think critically and creatively, empathize with others, communicate effectively, build healthy relationships, and cope with and manage life in a productive manner. These skills are essentially the abilities that promote mental and social well-being in situations encountered in the course of life. Ultimately enhancing life skills helps young men to negotiate challenges in a positive, constructive way. Psychosocial life skills can be promoted in sports or youth clubs, support groups, volunteer and community work.

The life skills workshops included in this section can be used separately or as a series of workshops conducted in the order they are presented.