Resilience and life skills
The Australian Curriculum in Health and Physical Education1 aims to develop students' knowledge, understanding and skills to strengthen their sense of self, and build and manage satisfying relationships. This in turn enables them to:
- strengthen their sense of self, and build and manage satisfying relationships, ultimately developing good self-management and interpersonal skills (life skills);
- build resilience and make the right decisions needed to take appropriate actions to promote their health;
- develop and use critical inquiry skills to research and analyse the knowledge they now have and to understand the influences on their own and others' health, safety and wellbeing; and
- learn to use resources for the benefit of themselves and for the communities with which they identify and to which they belong.
Resilience is referred to as the capacity to bounce back from disruptive life events.2
Skills that are needed for resilience include coping with changes and challenges, loss and grief, making connections through respectful relationships, knowing when, where and how to ask for help, thinking optimistically, being able to care for oneself and others, and being able to utilise positive self-talk. Teachers need to provide many opportunities for students to practice developing all these skills in a relationships and sexuality context. The Health Promoting Schools Framework provides an effective way of supporting a comprehensive approach to achieving educational and health outcomes. The MindMatters resource Enhancing Reslience 12 provides a comprehensive checklist to guide a whole school approach to enhancing resilience (p.17).
Life skills need to be taught in a developmentally appropriate context from kindergarten to Year 12. The provision of multiple opportunities for ongoing skill development and rehearsal need to be programmed at all levels and in a variety of contexts.
Communication is often categorised as aggressive, assertive or passive. Students need to be given many opportunities to recognise styles of communication, to learn what is appropriate in different situations and to practise their assertive communication skills in relevant scenarios. Decision-making models, role plays in appropriate scenarios and other snap decision-making activities can help students rehearse and develop skills to make informed and considered decisions.
Leadership skills also include knowing ways to help others when they are subjected to bullying, finding ways to encourage and help others when faced with a challenge, how to express feelings, needs and ideas to others, and cooperating and collaborating in groups.
Risk management involves using skills such as problem predicting, problem solving, identifying possible positive and negative outcomes of a decision, planning and deciding before acting, identifying appropriate behaviours and situations that may be potentially harmful, risky or hazardous in order to assess situations and identify risks and then avoid, reduce or manage risks and harms in order to keep healthier and safer.
Assertiveness is the ability to express one’s needs and rights, positive and negative thoughts and emotions, while still remaining respectful of the rights of others. Assertiveness is the skill required in preventing and managing conflict, negotiating, decision-making and taking action, using protective behaviours, collaborating and cooperating, and responding to teasing, anger and bullying.
Self control skills may be developed through the topics and sub topics of positive behaviours and relationships, resilience, understanding and managing emotions, and preventing and managing conflict.
Self-understanding includes understanding the influences of socio-cultural factors on one’s identity and gender images and expectations, understanding the influences of different beliefs and values including those related to sexuality and gender on self-esteem and self-concept, and mental health issues. Activities that use a rating scale, a continuum or values voting can help students to explore their own attitudes and values to gain more self-understanding.
Social skills are critical to successful functioning in life. The extent to which children and adolescents possess appropriate and well developed social skills can influence their performance and behaviour in and out of school, as well as their social and family relationships. Social skills include cooperating, sharing, being a friend, helping others, being patient, following directions, taking turns, respecting and accepting differences, being polite and courteous, using manners. Being a positive role model, establishing and maintaining a safe and supportive classroom environment and taking every opportunity to implement appropriate teaching and learning strategies help students to develop and practise these and other social skills.
Stress management skills are essential for managing internal responses or change and to assist in identifying stressors, eliminating negative stressors, and developing effective coping mechanisms to respond constructively to stress. Some types of stress management techniques include progressive muscular relaxation, guided imagery, breathing techniques, and active problem solving.
Specific sexual health issues: Safer celebrating
Life skills relating to sexual health issues students may face as they reach adolescence, need to be explicitly taught. Teachers and parents are often concerned about some risky situations young people find and/or place themselves in. These include situations around celebrations, sexual assualt, cyber safety issues (including sexting) and at times risky and inappropriate sexual behaviours
Events including parties, school balls and Leavers Week are often highly anticipated and in some cases associated with risky alcohol use, experimental drug use and planned or unplanned sex. Using alcohol and other drugs can affect a person’s ability to make decisions, which may result in them doing something they may not otherwise have done. Schools can help prepare young people for safer celebrating by utilising guest speakers to provide a focus on particular issues. There are a variety of agencies that offer presentations.
These and other important information is available on the official Leavers WA website.
1. Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority. Curriculum. ACARA. Health and Physical Education Curriculum: Rationale. (Accessed 12 March 2015).
2. MindMatters. Module 1.3: What is mental health? http://www.mindmatters.edu.au/explore-modules/what-is-mental-health- (Accessed 27 July 2016).