The Soaring over Meth and Suicide (SOMS) substance abuse prevention focuses on actions that increase the protective factors and resilience of our youth. “Protective factors are those factors, conditions or attributes (skills, strengths, resources, supports or coping strategies) in individuals, families, communities or the larger society that help people deal more effectively with stressful events and mitigate or eliminate risk in families and communities”(wikipedia.com). “Resilience is an individual’s ability to properly adapt to stress and adversity” (wikipedia.com). What can you do to make a difference as a parent, neighbor, business person, schools…?
The Search Institute has identified 40 different assets/factors that contribute to the foundation for healthy development. They have divided these factors into external and internal assets or protective factors. The first external factor is SUPPORT:
What does support look like: love, affection, caring, respect… While these may seem obvious too often we take for granted that our children know we love, care and respect them. How do we tell and show them that we love them? What would your child say if he/she was asked if their parent(s) love them? How would we react if they said no they didn’t feel loved? How someone perceives a situation is key to effective communication. It doesn’t matter if you love your child, if he/she doesn’t feel loved. Taking the time to listen to their reasoning and really reflecting on what they say goes a long way in being supportive and understanding. Listening doesn’t mean you have to agree, but it does show that your child’s opinion, feelings and thoughts are important to you. Understanding how your child perceives things also helps you to provide them with the necessary insight and knowledge to think critically.
Support begins in the home, but it extends beyond the four walls of your home. Not all children grow up in a safe and healthy environment. Family and friends are great secondary supports for children. Even with the best child/parent relationship a child may be hesitant to discuss certain topics with their parent(s). Knowing other trusted adults have your back will give you peace of mind, and your child an alternative trusted person to talk to. Family, friends, teachers, coaches… can offer different perspectives, views and experiences that will expand your child’s ability to think critically. My aunt Dorothy was a trusted adult for me. I remember going to her for advice, she taught me how to figure out taxes on items at the store, and was a great role model.
How can communities/neighbors provide support? There once was a time when everyone knew everyone in their neighborhood, but I think that as communities have gotten bigger we have grown apart. I will be honest I only know my closest neighbors and not very well at that. Before social programs and services it was the churches and neighbors who helped each other and supported each other during good and bad times. Is there a trusted elder in your community that you know or could get to know. There was a time when our elders were the eyes and ears of our community and were an indirect support letting parents know the who, what, when and where of our children’s movements.
School is where our children spend the most quality hours of their day . It can also be one of the most stressful places for children to be. Children learn by example, so we need to work with our schools to help guide them in ensuring that the environment our children are spending 7-8 hours of their days in is welcoming, safe, encouraging and caring. Teachers have a lot on their plates, so it is important that we work together with them to create this environment.
Support is an important building block for a healthy, loving and welcoming environment. Be intentional in your thoughts, actions and words today and everyday. Be intentional and consistent in creating a welcoming and supportive environments for you and your children.
How can you support someone today?