When it comes to preventing youth substance abuse, once-and-done assemblies or three-word phrases (Just say no!) simply don’t work. Rather, substance abuse prevention requires a more thorough approach. Learn about the risk factors that can lead to the use of alcohol and other drugs, and how protective factors can give kids the foundation they need to make healthier decisions.

 What are substance abuse risk factors in youth?

These influences can boost the chance a child or teenager will start abusing alcohol or other drugs. They include:

  • Family risk factors, such as family conflict, favorable parental attitudes toward drug use, and poor family management;
  • Community risk factors, such as community disorganization and low neighborhood attachment;
  • School risk factors, such as school or academic failure and low commitment to school;
  • Peer risk factors, such as early initiation of drug use, early initiation of antisocial behavior, and favorable attitudes toward drug use.

It’s important to note that exposure to risk factors doesn’t guarantee a child will develop substance abuse. In fact, one way we, as a community, can help safeguard at-risk children is by arming them with protective factors.

What are protective factors in youth?

Protective factors are conditions or attributes that decrease the risk for substance use and abuse. The presence of even a few protective factors can have a significant impact on how a child or adolescent reacts to a potentially risky situation. Protective factors include:

  • Strong communication skills;
  • Good relationships with peers;
  • Ability to resolve conflicts in a healthy way;
  • Strong neighborhood attachment;
  • Availability of socioeconomic resources for the family;
  • School engagement;
  • Parental supervision and consistent discipline.

One way to build up protective factors is by leveraging a concept called Social and Emotional Learning (SEL). This is the process through which people acquire the skills, knowledge, and attitudes needed to make healthy decisions as well as recognize and manage emotions. SEL-based learning for youth is about so much more than “Just say no.” It’s about giving kids a practical toolset filled with life skills so they’re better able to make healthy decisions and productively handle tough situations, such as when their new best friend offers them a sip of alcohol. The kids in our Lancaster and Lebanon, PA communities deserve more than a three-word answer to substance abuse prevention. Instead, give them an entire toolkit that lays the foundation for healthy decision-making. At Compass Mark, SEL drives many of our youth programs, including LionsQuest, Student Skills for Life, and more. Contact our team at 717-299-2831 to find the right evidence-based substance abuse program for your school, youth group, or afterschool program. Additional Resources DrugAbuse.gov Youth.gov     Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

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