Recently, I have been reading tons of articles on adolescents and youth facing challenges with high-risk behaviors, such as early-onset substance abuse, justice involvement and the connection to peer pressure, childhood trauma, and community environment. There are so many prevention and intervention programs, groups, and organizations to choose frome. The possibilities are endless and overwhelming.
If you conduct a search of prevention and intervention programs for youth facing these challenges there are several programs that include models focused on addressing distorted thinking. That is to say, many kids fail to see any issue with substance misuse or disruptive/disrespectful behavior. Other programs focus on empowering students by teaching them how to cope with anger, peer-pressure, limited social skills, and encouraging self-esteem. When you look at the numbers, many of these programs report great success in reaching kids by helping them develop the skills that not only prepare them for life, but provide them with facts that aid them in making healthy decisions.
I teach leadership and life skills in an urban middle school, and many of my student struggle with some of the life skills modules. That’s not to say it doesn’t work, I just circle back to challenging areas and deliver the information a different way. Since, I started teaching, I recognized the increased engagement in the leadership portion of our classes, and I strive to connect the life skills with all of my material. However, one day a light bulb appeared, and I thought why don’t I ask the kids what they think. Of course, I had to do a little digging. I wanted to know what the research said.
I combed the internet, scholarly journal articles, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Sevices Association (SAMHSA). You give me the initials for a group or organization that has resources for preventing youth substance abuse, I have searched it. I was surprised to find that there is very little information that focuses on what kids think about the prevention programs they participated in. Now, there were some articles that focused (specifically) on foster-care transitioning and justice-involves youth, but there was a bit of a hole for traditional students’ perceptions. I want to know, what are the kiddos saying, and do they feel like they benefit from the prevention programs?
So, if you happen to breeze by this, and you find any of these articles, please send them my way. Maybe we can find out together. Until next time.