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Empowerment: to give power to (someone) Merriam Webster’s Online Dictionary.

When I think about empowerment I think about control, I have to admit that I am a bit of a control-freak so empowerment really speaks to my sense of safety and well-being. Power (on the other hand) according to Merriam Webster’s online dictionary is defined as: the ability or right to control people or things,  political control of a country or area, a person or organization that has a lot of control and influence over other people or organizations. Isn’t it interesting how two  little letters (em) can change the whole meaning of a word.

Power is usually associated with control over others and I think most people would agree that the word itself is not associated with helping others, but asserting oneself above others. Empowerment is about giving the power to someone and the beauty of this word is that when we empower others we create a sustainable, equitable and healthy environment.

What does empowerment have to do with substance abuse prevention? When we empower our children we provide them with the tools to make wise choices for themselves. In last week’s post I talked about how individual’s, families, neighborhoods and community sectors can support prevention efforts and our youth. On that same note empowerment may begin in the home, but only when everyone is on the same page can we truly be effective in our efforts.

Empowerment is when our children know that they are valued, welcomed and needed. That means that we are intentional about finding roles for them to take part in; whether that be helping to set-up, clean-up, serve or even help to watch their siblings they need to know that they can contribute. Have you ever wondered why your children want to do everything that you do, or why are they always underfoot? Have you ever seen a child whom you thought was a hard worker always helping his/her parents and others. Often those children have been raised in a family, community where their contribution is valued. Children learn by example and doing, if we want them to be helpful, then we need to be patient and allow and encourage them to help. When we do this they learn how to contribute, but if we don’t allow them to try then we can’t be surprised when they are asked to help and either they do not know how or do not want to.

Volunteering your time to others whether it be your family or in the community is another way to empower our youth, and volunteering is only a chore when you make it a chore. When they are able to give back they get back. I remember to this day when my Mom took me to a nursing home where she volunteered through the church to help out when the elders would play bingo. It meant a lot to me to know that I was needed and that I was contributing I didn’t even do that much just helped the elders mark off their bingo spots, but to this day I remember that time fondly, and wished that I had given my children more of those same opportunities. Just remember that children are more likely to do what you do then what you say if you want them to volunteer they need to see that you are volunteering too.

Another way for your children can learn to become a productive part of your family is to hold family meetings.  This is a great way for your children to learn how decision-making skills, to share their thoughts and opinions, to collaborate and work as a team, and when you take turns running the meeting they learn valuable skills in cooperation, communication, staying on task, following an agenda etc… Equipping your child with the right skills to be successful is prevention.

Empowerment is one more step in your child(ren’s) journey towards independence. It is important that while raising our children we remember to keep the end goal in sight, and that is our responsibility to provide our children with enough education, experiences and skills to deal with the majority of what they will face as adults, for those other times when life just seems to0 overwhelming they also need to know that there are others out there who can help them whether that be friends, family or their faith.

If you are still asking how all of this is prevention? Think about why people turn to drugs and alcohol in the first place.  When our children are confident in themselves it is easier to say no, when they have a bright future ahead of them it is easier to see what they have to lose, and when they have a good support system and coping skills they are better able to cope with what life will throw at them. One last comment when it comes to coping, we love our children and don’t like to see them get hurt either physically, mentally or spiritually, but we need to keep in mind that adversity makes us stronger when our children never experience a disappointment, adversity, or fail at something they are less prepared to deal with these things when they happen to them as adults. Allowing your child to experience things such as failures help them to see that failure does not mean the end of the world,  and how to come back from it are important skills that will prepare them for their future.

How can you empower someone today?


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