You try to keep your kids healthy, right? You make sure they get enough sleep, eat fruits and vegetables, and brush their teeth. Prevention is key to keeping your child well. When it comes to alcohol, tobacco, and illegal drugs, drug preventon measures—also called “protective factors”—can help keep your child from using substances.
In contrast, risk factors are like red flags that can warn you about possible dangers in your child’s future—and help you prevent those dangers.
A child deals with many types of risk and protective factors at home, in school, and in his neighborhood. The more risk factors a child faces, the more likely he is to have substance abuse and related problems as a teen or young adult. And the reverse is true; with more protective factors at work, a child is more likely to make healthy decisions.
Parents can provide one of the most important protective factors: a strong family bond. When you and your children hang out and have fun together, you develop a sense of closeness and trust and help strengthen family ties. Time together also gives you a chance to share your values and expectations about different topics, including substance use. If you let your child know up front that you don’t approve of using alcohol, tobacco, or drugs, your child is less likely to use them.
Research shows that parental influence is a primary reason that youth don’t do drugs, so speak up and let your children know where you stand.
Many types of risk factors are rooted in a child’s family life. Would it surprise you to learn that parents’ permissiveness is a bigger factor in teenage drug use than is peer pressure?
Research shows that children whose parents who don’t use fair and consistent discipline are more likely to be at greater risk for drug-taking behavior.
Making rules, explaining the need for them, and enforcing them consistently are important. Parents need to establish regularly enforced rules to guide their children in developing daily habits of self-discipline.
Risk and Protective Factors in Your Family’s Regular Routine
You have a chance to improve many of your child’s protective factors every day. Start by spending time together—eat dinner together, go for a walk, drive to the mall, play board games, or do other activities that you and your child can enjoy together. Like the steps you take to keep your child’s body healthy, a solid relationship with you can help protect her from substance use and help keep her well in body, mind, and spirit.