So...today, we will talk about prevention programs. I'm sure you know of some...like DARE (anti-drug use), violence prevention programs, suicide prevention, sexual abuse/activity prevention...blah blah blah. I am not here to say that these things are good or bad; shoot, I was able to experience a number of these programs in my youth. You get alot of information out of these, and for some, the scare tactics actually work (...on kids who have been sheltered from these type of events, on a regular basis). But for many of our youth (and when I say Our, I mean my own, as well as the students I teach, who live in more urban areas, in close quarters with many people, and in metropolitan areas, where the rates of domestic crimes are high)these preventative programs just barely gloss over the facts that they see on a daily basis.
There is an assertion out there that 'problem free is not fully prepared', and I agree with this statement. When we try to "fix" our youth, we sell the young people short, and diminish our expectations for their achievement. We can do our best to teach them, and try to prevent high risk behaviors, but even if we achieve in doing so, its not the same as preparing them for the future. "Preparation requires an equal commitment to helping youth understand life's challenges and responsibilities and to teach youth the necessary skills for success."* Just because we are teaching the youth how to stay away and prevent issues from happening, we aren't fully preparing them for adulthood. They aren't going to "make it" in the world, just because they didn't get pregnant, join a crew/gang, or because they didn't use drugs; they learned prevention--not skills, knowledge or personal attributes. Developing the youth towards positive developmental outcomes really is the best strategy for problem prevention. It takes dedicated adults to do this. We have to help them strive for toward more positive goals that promote the skills and motivation they need to adopt and implement healthy lifestyles.
What does that mean?
I try my best to not tell a girl "Don't go out and have sex, you'll get pregnant, and that will be the end of life as you know it". Not only is this negative, but its flat out unlikely. How many teenaged mothers do you know of that still live a teenaged life? Still go to school, still hang with friends, still go on to college or get a job? True, life is different, because they have to come home to more responsibilities than a girl who doesn't have a child, but with some many multi-generational homes, there is most likely someone there who is taking up the slack for the youth. No one want to let the baby suffer, so everyone pitches in, in some way. Instead, I encourage her to think about other things; I ask questions to find out what they are thinking about, which in turn, gets them to discuss what they see, feel and think. I go out of my way to NOT make statements of judgement, because I know that I am an influence in their lives, and my personal feelings and opinions can change the way that they see me, but also their world. I also try not to share too much of my personal life experience in this matter, because that is subconsciously telling them my personals again...feelings and opinions. "Ms. Rayawwwwna didn't have sex at my age because she wasn't ready...I wonder what she thinks of me, because I was. Maybe I shouldn't talk about this with her anymore" would be the thoughts going through my students' mind, and I would lose the trust of a student, something that would hurt me dearly, since the safety and security that I strive to provide may not be readily available within their familial units, and I would have lost them right then and there.
Basically, with prevention programs, the young people are deemed competent and healthy when they do not participate in problem behaviors. This teaches them what not to do, but this does not teach them what they should do.
Yeah. I've found myself being more and more critical of these programs here lately, because my son, Q, has been having alot of these types of programs being introduced in his middle school. Many times, he doesn't know it, but I get the reminder phone calls from school, and emails from teachers, asking for our participation. As a parent, this prompts me to bring things of this nature up in general conversation, as opposed to "You' aren't using drugs are you?", which of course he would deny (even if he were) out of fear of judgement and punishment. Instead, when its brought up in general conversation, he may feel more comfortable asking questions and discussing what he does know. At that time, I do my best to answer factually, and unbiased, no matter how I am feeling about it on the inside. Personal opinions must go out the window, unless he asks, and sometimes, even in that case, I still try to keep it to a minimum. YES, ITS HARD, but he is a youth in development as well!
I'm getting long winded (as folks tend to do when they feel certain passion over a subject), so I'm going to cut it short here. But I do want to know what you think. Please comment, discuss, ask questions-whatever you feel comfortable doing. Also, should you have a question, or a situation you'd like to present to me, please do so at Momma.Yonna@yahoo.com, and I will do my best to help you out. Now, I am not the end-all/be-all when it comes to youth development (I'm still learning), but maybe I can offer a suggestion or some insight that will help you out. Then again, maybe I will end up learning from you. Let's find out together, eh?
*Advancing Youth Development: A Curriculum for Training Youth Workers, Handout 1-C, Key Youth Development Concepts and Assertions