Prevention education is important for children of all ages in developing healthy coping mechanisms and resisting toxic peer pressure. That's why many schools offer prevention education programs as part of their curriculum.
But having a program in place isn't always enough — especially if that child is going home to an unhealthy household or one that does discuss important topics like alcohol and drug use. To fully support children during their most vulnerable years, here's how teachers can implement a prevention education program into their lessons.
Many children and teens lack a support system at home who they can talk to about difficult topics like drug and alcohol use. Educators have the ability to provide valuable insight and information to their students that will guide them through their most impressionable years.
Starting an open, honest and realistic conversation about the dangers of substance abuse will allow the teacher to be a voice of reason. That way, their students won't just be hearing misleading, dangerous information elsewhere (like from their peers). This information can be relayed through facts and statistics, personal stories, and more. Such conversations will show students their teachers actually care about them, building trust and comfortability.
The last thing a teacher should do is create an environment where students feel scared or discouraged to ask questions or talk about their concerns. While it's important to report any dangerous behavior, you don't want to berate a child or teen for their curiosities or naivety surrounding substance use. Instead, educators should be honest and upfront with the dangers and risks associated with drugs and alcohol, while providing unwavering support and advocacy for their students' overall wellbeing.
Teachers play an important role in prevention education programs, but they can't do it all. Educators must provide credible resources for students (and parents/guardians, if applicable) to refer to should they need further information or support. Such resources can include handouts with further reading, names and websites of government or other prevention education programs, contact information of professionals who might offer counseling, and more.
It's important for teachers to understand the type of support and environment their students have at home. Checking in with family members can be very telling in whether a student is more at-risk for abusing substances, and whether they might need more attention at school. Additionally, if there are any telling signs that a student is involving themselves with the wrong crowd or experimenting with substances, teachers should discuss the situation with parents/guardians.