Youth Solutions gets plenty of questions from parents and carers about how they can prevent their children or young people from experiencing the harms of drugs and alcohol.
And the simple answer is, that there is no simple answer. There are no parenting skills or behaviours that can guarantee that your child or young person will never use drugs or alcohol or experience harm from drugs and alcohol.
But, there are some things that parents and carers can do to help increase their child’s protective factors, which can reduce the possibility of your child or young person developing problematic or dependent alcohol or other drug use.
So, what are protective factors exactly?
Protective factors are the conditions and attributes that can help reduce the risk of negative behaviours and health issues and instead increase health, wellbeing, connectedness and resilience of children, young people and families.
Parents and carers should aim to provide a supportive home environment as well as establish wider community environment around their young person(s) (which could include extended family, trusted friends, and other supportive people and groups). A young person who feels supported is more likely to reach out, open up and engage in positive community activities.
This is one that we are very passionate about at Youth Solutions. Providing correct information and relatable and relative education, especially around issues like drug and alcohol use, is key to upskilling young people and helping them to make informed, safer choices. You don’t have to have all the answers yourself, but fostering a home and community environment that values learning and seeks to educate and upskill young people is a great starting point. When it comes to specific education around drugs and alcohol, Youth Solutions can also assist!
This is a key protective factor. Young people are no different to any other part of humanity; we all like to feel a sense of belonging. Feeling accepted and supported by friends, family, peers or other groups helps us to feel good about ourselves and reduces our feelings of loneliness and isolation (known risk factors for health and wellbeing issues). Connection to school and the community around us is also beneficial for young people. Some young people really benefit from volunteering opportunities, to assist with this feeling of belonging check out Youth Solutions’ volunteering opportunities here.
Parents and carers can play such a positive role in their child or young person’s life, by showing positive behaviours. This can range from setting healthy, positive examples around alcohol consumption, right through to role modelling self-care and self-help seeking skills. We learn by watching, so setting a good example for your young person about taking care of their health and wellbeing can help to reduce risk factors for drug and alcohol related harm.
Parents and carers can help young people to feel connected, motivated and good about themselves by encouraging them to explore and develop hobbies and interests and supporting them to develop and nurture positive friendships and contact with friends. Parent engagement and participation in positive activities can also help to set a good example for children and young people.
This one speaks for itself. Young people should be encouraged and supported to ask questions and communicate openly and honestly with their parent, carer and/or a suitable support person. Having open communication, even around tough topics like drug and alcohol use, helps young people to feel heard, valued and connected and allows them to work through their concerns or issues with you, instead of away from you. It’s important to always communicate calmly, kindly, respectfully and in a non-judgemental way with your child or young person.
When a young person is confident in their decision making ability and problem solving skills, they are more likely to make better decisions. They are also more likely to be better equipped to bounce back and change their situation if they make a decision that’s not so great. It’s important to provide an environment that allows your child or young person to develop their skills in making good decisions; role model it, talk about it and give them the support, self-belief and space they need to make decisions that are right for them.
Written by: Amanda Dillon, Community Relations & Communications Coordinator & Karen Yuen, Youth & Community Development Coordinator
Posted on 26th July 2023