Let’s Talk: Strengthening Protective Factors to Prevent Youth Substance Misus

December 06, 2019
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Because substance use is typically initiated during adolescence, it is particularly important to target this age group to intentionally prevent and reduce youth substance use. Research has shown that many factors influence youth substance misuse. Risk factors such as age of first use and poor classroom behavior can increase a person’s chances for substance abuse. Yet, protective factors such as a strong bond between children and parents/caregivers and involvement in sports, hobbies, and other activities, can reduce the risk.

It’s important to be aware of these risk and protective factors so that as parents and caregivers, we can identify and address the risk factors and work on strengthening protective factors. Keep in mind that mental health disorders have many of the same risk and protective factors as substance use disorders.

The following are ways parents/caregivers can strengthen protective factors:

Develop healthy, strong family relationships - one way to do this is by having more family dinners. Eating meals together is one of the best ways to build connections, strengthen relationships and share family values.

Have open and honest conversations about substances with your child - ask your child open ended questions about substances. Actively listen to their perspectives, while also sharing your values and expectations. This shows your child that you are invested in their health and well-being and that they can come to you if they need help.

Encourage participation in sports, hobbies and other activities. Young people who have a sense of belonging and feel connected to something bigger than themselves are less likely to turn to substances. Require your child to engage in at least one extracurricular activity a week whether it be participation in a youth group with a faith community, a student club, a job or sports.

Click here for more support in strengthening protective factors!