Let them know you’re here for them—no matter what
Sex, alcohol, drugs . . . These are subjects many adults would just as soon not discuss with young people.
But if parents and other caring adults don’t step up and talk to young people about these things, who will?
Make it easy for young people to come to you and talk about the temptations in their lives. Avoid judging.
Listen, and educate. Restraint is Asset 31 of Search Institute’s 40 Developmental Assets, the qualities,
experiences, and relationships that help young people grow up healthy, caring, and responsible.
Here are the facts
Research shows that young people who refrain from sexual activity and the use of alcohol and other drugs
are more likely to grow up healthy. About 45 percent of young people, ages 11–18, believe it’s important
not to be sexually active or to use alcohol or other drugs, according to Search Institute surveys. These
young people are less likely to chew tobacco or smoke cigarettes, fight, steal, or feel depressed. Further,
drinking and driving or riding in a car with someone who’s been drinking are also less likely to happen
when young people practice restraint.
Tips for building this asset
Communicating with young people about the risks of sex, use of alcohol or other drugs is important.
Labeling them as bad is not necessarily helpful. Instead, explain the dangers: having sex can lead to
pregnancy and disease; using alcohol or other drugs causes you to lose control over your functions, which
can lead to serious, even fatal, accidents; substance use can also damage the developing teenage brain.
Work with young people to focus on long-term outcomes—not just on the moment. Helping them to
internalize and stand up for their personal values also makes it easier for them to practice restraint and
withstand negative peer pressure. If they do get in trouble with these issues, though, make sure they know
they can come to you for help.
Also try this
In your home and family: Look for opportunities to respond to messages in the media about
sexuality and use of alcohol and other drugs. Discuss your reaction and ask for your child’s opinion.
In your neighborhood and community: Keep everyone accountable! Make a pact with your
neighbors not to allow alcohol at parties for young people—and to report to other parents if you hear
of or see young people using alcohol or other drugs.
In your school or youth program: Form a weekly after-school group to promote drug-free and
alcohol-free lifestyles, as well as positive decision-making.