It is turning out to be one of those days! A meeting at work got out late and now you are rushing to pick up your 10-year-old son at scouts, and your 13-year-old daughter from piano lessons. Your teenage son just called from home wondering if the roast in the crock pot (still on the warm setting) is for dinner – “because it certainly ain’t done!!” As your scouter son excitedly hops into the car, with his Pine Wood Derby kit, he “reminds” you that he has a book report due in the morning and could you please help him because it is “super confusing.” It is then that you remember that your family signed up to go and visit some elderly people at the nursing home this evening. After picking up your daughter, you sigh as you head for “Little Ceasars” - because pizza it is. That will be the only way to salvage dinner together before it is time to leave.
Congratulations! Although your day has been a hectic mess, you are on the right track. You are actually building protection for your family through implementation of the Social Development Strategy. Basically, the goal is to develop Healthy Behaviors in children and youth. You do this by starting with Healthy Beliefs and Clear Standards that your children can learn and benefit from. As you consistently adhere to your family’s core beliefs, and the standards that you have decided are important for your family to follow – your children will begin to develop a sense of Family, School, and Community; as well as beginning to understand the part that they personally can play in making the world in which they live – a better place.
By taking your family to the nursing home to visit with those who need love and care, you are instilling the value of Service in your children’s young minds. In this world of instant and self-gratification, thinking about others is a pretty big deal, and a definite protective factor in helping your kids develop a sense of humanity and unselfishness. Obviously – the timing may not be convenient, but that only adds to the value of the service rendered.
You are also building the vital component of Bonding with your kids as you spend time with them and personally show your Commitment to caring for others. This in turn, will help your children form attachments with others in the community - which is another Protective factor in their lives. As you nurture your child’s Individual Characteristics, such as compassion for those around them, they will also feel a sense of gratitude for what they have. This will help lower the risk of them feeling that they need unhealthy behaviors like substance use, or bullying others to make themselves feel like they are important and valued; and they will naturally start to feel like a vital part of their community.
Also, by taking them to the nursing home, you are providing them an Opportunity to learn valuable social Skills as they visit with the residents there, as well as reinforcing the idea that compassion is a healthy belief and core value to your family. The personal Recognition your children will receive through this personal interaction will also build the Attachment and Commitment they feel toward their community.
Providing other opportunities for your children to build Skills, such as piano and scouts, again provides them with personal Recognition as they prepare to demonstrate the skills they have learned through activities such as a Pine Wood Derby race, or a piano recital.
Even though Pizza was not what you had planned, the fact that you made sure you had time together at the dinner table as a family, will speak volumes to your children about the Clear Standards you have around making meal time together a priority in your home. With that Clear Standard comes another Protective Factor in your children’s lives. The more Protective Factors you can give your children, the less risk there will be of unhealthy behaviors claiming their lives.
Remember, you do not have to have your child involved in a million activities or busy things, to implement the Social Development Strategy into their lives.
Children must be provided with Opportunities to contribute to their communities, families, peers and schools. The challenge is to provide children with Opportunities that they consider meaningful that help them feel responsible and significant.
Children must be taught the skills necessary to effectively take advantage of the opportunity they are provided. If they don’t have the necessary skills to be successful, they experience frustration and/or failure.
Children must also be recognized and acknowledged for their efforts. This gives them incentive to contribute, and reinforces their skillful performance.
Those with whom young people have Bonds need to have Healthy Beliefs about substance use and other problem behaviors, as well as clear, positive standards for behavior. The content of these standards is what protects young people. When parents, teachers, and communities set clear standards for children’s behavior, when these standards are widely supported, and when the consequence for not following the standards are consistent, young people are more likely to follow the standards.
Next time you wonder if it is all worth it, give yourself a break – You’ve Got This! Follow the basic Social Development Strategy and then enjoy your time together. Someday that teen brain will develop and will become amazed at how much their parents knew; and will be so grateful for the Clear Standards and Healthy Beliefs that they were raised with.
Alyn C. Mitchell
Alyn Mitchell is a part of the Utah Prevention Network and serves as the Prevention Coordinator for San Juan County. She lives with her husband and 5 beautiful children in Blanding, Utah, where she works for San Juan Counseling. Alyn serves as the San Juan County Prevention, Action, Collaboration (SJCPAC) Coalition coordinator; is the San Juan County Systems of Care Chairman, as well as a member of the Utah State University Eastern - Blanding Campus - Advisory council. Besides her work in prevention, Alyn works for Allies With Families and is a Mentor for the Southeastern Region of Utah. Being a mother, and recently a new grandmother, is her favorite thing in the world. She also loves music and in her spare time is the owner and director of a performing group for children ages 4-18.