This report offers a proposal for a life skills support group intended to assist young adults with their development, maturation, and integration into society. It begins by presenting an overall rationale and then articulating specific objectives based thereupon. Practical considerations are evaluated, based upon which specific procedures are developed. Finally, means and mechanisms for evaluating the efficacy of the support group are postulated.
All adults must master a set of core skills in order to function facilely and productively within society (“Building the Skills,” 2017). These skills help them manage workplace interactions, family relationships, friendships, and even interactions with strangers. These core skills embrace a wide array of functional areas. Adults must be able to make plans that are based upon key objectives, to execute upon these plans, and so to achieve concrete goals. They must be able simultaneously to handle multiple objectives and focus on what is most important at the time. They must be able to recognize how others around them establish the conditions and boundaries within which they are able to function. Attendantly, they must be able to cope with these externally imposed conditions—including the emotional reactions and stress that often result from them—and direct their responses maturely and productively (“Building the Skills,” 2017). While diversity is a current buzzword, it does not seem from initial analysis that diversity concerns are particularly relevant to the cultivation of the essential skills of independent adult life, therefore they are excepted from further consideration here.
The fact of the matter is that people are not born with these skills, and those who do not have the benefit of outstanding upbringings with strong parents and role models often fail to develop them to a sufficient point before they suddenly find themselves confronted with the demands of adulthood. Support groups that are staffed by knowledgeable, responsible, and caring advisors and coaches can go a long way toward assisting young adults in cultivating the skills that they may have developed either to an insufficient degree or, conceivably, not at all (“Building the Skills,” 2017). While it is best to develop these skills as a natural consequence of a well-directed path through childhood and adolescence, it is never too late to master the skills. Indeed, the human brain is still actively forming neural pathways and learning during the early adult years, so this stage of life can hardly be viewed as too late to acquire and perfect these skills (“Building the Skills,” 2017).
A well-planned life skills support group for at-risk adolescents and young adults would necessarily embrace several areas. These include career preparation, education, health, home management, risk prevention, and money management. Regarding career preparation, young adults may require counseling on the type of work to which they are best suited.
Aspects including applicable skills, acquirable skills, and the requirements that attend various careers are of concern. Young adults must also learn how to function in the workplace—an environment that likely altogether new to them—and both present and perform in a manner that enables them to obtain employment and, more importantly, to hold onto it (“Youth Skills,” n.d.). The need for further education may be inextricably bound to the search for employment. To this end, young adults must be empowered to understand what educational options they may need to pursue and how exactly to go about getting there. Young persons who have encountered difficulty in school may be particularly at risk, but it is not impossible for them to buckle down with renewed vigor and achieve to a new level that can surprise everyone involved.
Young adults may require remedial training in the key aspects of health and nutrition. They may be ill equipped to make judicious choices of nutritious food. At the same time, they may have insufficient exercise or sleep habits that must also be attended to by the life skills support group (“Youth Skills,” n.d.). Training in health and nutrition is a necessary base for teaching them home management skills. In addition to mastering grocery shopping and food preparation, they must likely learn the basics of keeping a home clean and in good repair. Moreover, they are likely completely unaware of such matters as rental agreements and mortgages that constitute mandatory parts of the housing equation (“Youth Skills,” n.d.).
Young adults at risk will have to be educated in various aspects of money management. They may be shocked by the fact that they must live within a fixed budget and use their available funding to cover all their needs. At the same time, they must learn how to evaluate the relative value of various purchase decisions and choose those that are most judicious (“Youth Skills,” n.d.). Part and parcel of this problem is avoiding unwise expenditure on risky habits, such as tobacco, alcohol, and drugs, which both impair the ability of the young adult continually to mature and integrate into society and potentially represent a bottomless pit of wasted money that can lead to ruin.
Procedures and Practical Considerations
From the most practical perspective, the youth life skills support group will require intense participation from both experienced adult coaches and young adult peers (“Creating and Facilitating,” 2018). It is probably a good idea for the group to meet more than once per week, given that the frequency with which new life problems present themselves and confuse the young participants is altogether unpredictable. Evening meeting times are most likely not to conflict with working hours. One or two adult coaches and a handful of supervised young adults, perhaps four to eight, strikes one as a workable group composition.
Although some young adults may require much closer supervision than others, it is unlikely that involuntary attendance can be forced. Indeed, forcing attendance would obviously require participation from law enforcement, with such sanctions as fines or incarceration to attend failure to comply with group requirements. Individual meetings should be carefully structured to include both an instructional component and a sharing component. The instructional component may include viewing films, hosting guest speakers, or the like. By way of contrast, the sharing component would enable the young adult participants to voice their concerns, inspire others with their achievements and successes, and enjoy a strong sense of support and empathy regarding their difficulties and failures (“Creating and Facilitating,” 2018).
Attracting young adults to the group can be achieved in a number of ways. Recruitment can be achieved by posting advertisements at high schools and in community colleges. One imagines that posters that photographically demonstrate a broad demographic mix will prove successful in attracting participation from similarly variegated ethnic and cultural groups. It is unlikely that posting advertisements at full-fledged universities is unlikely to bear much fruit, as those students who qualify for advanced education immediately out of high school likely have much stronger coping skills than their less fortunate contemporaries. Advertising at community centers and at places of worship may be less productive, given the declining rates of religious participation among adults in general and young adults in specific (McSwain, 2013). It is also unlikely that advertising in the community penny-saver would prove productive, as those young adults who are by definition less integrated within their communities are less likely even to avail themselves of such facilities.
A variety of evaluative protocols have been proposed to date for such interventive and peer groups. One suspects that a hybrid technique might prove most effective. More specifically, a combination of both formal and informal measures should be relied upon to gauge success of interventive measures. Formal measures include direct monitoring of participants’ financial records and periodic home visits conducted by counselors. Quite obviously, both of these measures require written permission from the consenting young adult group member. Semi-formal measures include questionnaires that interrogate members on how they feel they are coping. Areas assessed could potentially include ease of integration, qualitative characterizations of their feelings about various aspects of their developing life skills, major difficulties encountered, surprising facilitators or successes, and unexpected difficulties or failures. Naturally, the use formal interrogative materials should be deemphasized in favor of more familiar, easygoing ones in order to dispel any perceptible threat or intimidation that the already at-risk young adults may likely perceive.
It is expected that the foregoing elements, judiciously applied, should form the essential elements of a solidly functional life skills support group for young adults. Devoting due attention to each of the constituent areas detailed will guarantee maximal success given the level of effort and the difficulty of the problem.
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References Building the skills adults need for life: A guide for practitioners. (2017, August). Harvard University Center on the Developing Child. Retrieved from https://46y5eh11fhgw3ve3ytpwxt9r-wpengine.netdna-ssl.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/HCDC_BuildingCoreLifeSkills.pdf. Creating and facilitating peer support groups. (2018). University of Kansas Community Tool Box. Retrieved from https://ctb.ku.edu/en/table-of-contents/implement/enhancing-support/peer-support-groups/main. McSwain, S. (2013, October 14). Why nobody wants to go to church anymore. Huffington Post. Retrieved from https://www.huffingtonpost.com/steve-mcswain/why-nobody-wants-to-go-to_b_4086016.html. Skerfving, A., et al. (2014). Evaluation of support group interventions for children in troubled families: Study protocol for a quasi-experimental control group study. BMC Public Health 14(76). Retrieved from https://bmcpublichealth.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1471-2458-14-76. Youth skills for life curriculum. (undated). Project Life. Retrieved from https://www.vaprojectlife.org/for-professionals/youth-skills-for-life-curriculum-3/.