There has been a radical decline in the general civility of teenagers in recent decades in Russia. The main problems in upbringing have been linked with the economic and political reformation of the society which has had a negative impact on the Russian family. There is a sharp differentiation in incomes, mass impoverishment of families combined with the decay of traditional family way of life. Among other causes are situations where parents are either too busy or have lost their jobs or one of the parents has to go off in search for a living through shift work. Unfortunately, in our region some families are caught in a grave social situation, sometimes below the poverty line. In many cases, there is a lack of spiritual closeness between parents and children. In such a situation, a child’s need for communication does not disappear, but on the contrary, it grows. This fact has been confirmed in our personal contacts with teenagers.
The situation of survival in which our society has found itself has objectively generated the forms of social behaviour adequate to it, such as aggression, cruelty, competition, as well as inner conflicts and problems suffered by children.
Medical workers, sociologists and psychologists have observed a sharp increase in the number of ‘marginalized’ children who outwardly seem problem-free while being left to themselves. There is a steady increase in the number of drug-addicted teenagers, teenagers with alcoholic and chemical dependencies and young people who have failed to choose a profession and do not know what to do and what way of life to pursue.
All this makes it necessary to work for the prevention of risk behaviour among children. And it is gratifying that there is such a program as Ladya which comes to help as it gives exhaustive answers to a child’s everyday question Why. In 2011, the program began to be carried out in several schools in the Chelyabinsk Regions, in particular in the town of Kusa.
The central task in the implementation of this program is to show to a teenager that the value consciousness is always linked with the emotionally tense process of choosing, which can be made considerably easier if a person has an asserted preference for particular values. Hence the need to present to teenagers a clear system of moral guidelines and to create conditions for turning these guidelines into inner levers of behaviour through actualizing the psychic potential as an instrument of spiritual life. According to our observations, this task has been fulfilled most effectively through the Ladya program.
Today, a great number of children in secondary and high school in Kusa and other places in the Chelyabinsk Regions can be referred to the risk group due to their active experimentation with various psycho-active substances. In this situation, the preventive work of teachers, psychologists and social educators has proved to be a more effective means than the treatment of an already ripe disease. In this connection, the Ladya program was met by teachers as ‘a ring-buoy’. And our out-of-school center ‘Rovesnik’ (Age-mate) just as the school itself constitutes perhaps an educational space which has retained the possibility for influencing the youth’s beliefs and stands and for communication with them. It is a place for our efforts as teachers and psychologist whose professional work itself dictates the need to help young people to solve their problems.
A written poll of 13 and 14 year-old teenagers who participate in the Ladya program has revealed the following results important for both kids and teachers. These results have been achieved through the Ladya lessons on value orientation, motivation and relations with people around them. The Ladya lessons have proved to help:
- to perceive the surrounding world as ‘more positive’;
- to restore one’s spiritual balance and ‘to stop to be nervous and upset about trifles’;
- to establish friendly relations with age-mates;
- to divert one from various kinds of problems;
- to encourage cheerful mood;
- to receive much new and useful information;
- to adopt high motivation for self-development;
- ‘these lessons are important for me!’;
- to enjoy the freedom of speech and expression, to get rid of the fear of misunderstanding and mocking;
- to appreciate the confidentiality of information;
- to experience situations where one comes to think over life, its meaning, people and the future;
- to learn from others’ mistakes;
- ‘you always find a solution of your problems’;
- to learn to communicate;
- to communicate on equal footing;
- to rise a step up in one’s development at each lesson.
As a proof of the effectiveness of the work carried out, we will cite two responses of girls who participate in the Ladya program for preventing risk behaviour among children and teenagers:
During the lesson on Love, we were shown a video-piece on ‘I will love you eternally…’ And I came home lost in reverie… I was thinking: Indeed someday I will become a mother. And sometime in the future I will have children… And they will be as rude to me as I am to my mother. So, ‘the mirror principle’ will work then and I will cry as my mother does. But my children will not understand why I cry, just as I sometimes do not understand mom. And having thought about it, I came to mom. And simply embraced her and said, ‘Mom, you are the most beautiful of all! Mom, I love you much!’… And tears began to roll down my mother’s cheeks. I began to cry too. So, we stood together and cried. After that day, mom and I found a common language and began ‘to charge the battery from the both sides’. And I began to confide in mom things I never told her before. I am so grateful for all the Ladya lessons for the fact that I have found a common language with the person dearest to me!!!’ (Xenia Sh., 14).
During the Ladya, we discussed the theme about drugs and how to abandon them. Some 3 or 4 days later, I was offered a drug (pot), and I, following the advice and discussion at the Ladya, managed to refuse it!!! During trainings, we cited these situations, and I did not expect at all one of them will prove to occur to me.
Before I reacted strongly and aggressively to words addressed to me. For instance, when dad or mom shouted at me. Thanks to Ladya, I now do not say such aggressive words or show such emotions but rather give one the possibility to express oneself and solve the problem calmly and in friendly way. I am grateful for these lessons!!!’ (Nadya K. 14).
In our view, it is reasonable to outline some recommendations to make more effective the prevention of risk behaviour among children and youth:
- To have a complex approach to the prevention of risk behaviour. This problem should be dealt with not only during the Ladya special lessons but also during lessons on mathematics, biology, anatomy, literature in which it is necessary to provide information which helps children adopt an active ‘anti-risk’ stand.
- To ensure the involvement of all the education professionals on the level of city, town, district, region and country in the work for preventing risk behaviour. It should include issue conferences of teachers on age peculiarities of schoolchildren and teenagers, on cooperation between the teacher and children in preventing deviant behaviours and various aspects of giving psychological and educational aid to parents raising children and teenagers
- To ensure the assistance of specialists to teachers in conducting preventive events, holding master classes, assisting in developing particular lessons and selecting information material, etc.
It is important that this work should always influence children’s ideas and convictions with regard to certain vital values, such as health and the need to preserve it.
We believe all the points indicated in children’s responses to the Ladya program and the changes they have experienced as they themselves reflected, constitute the criteria of effectiveness of our work. It helps to bring both children and us, teachers, to a state of inner harmony with the surrounding world and, most importantly, with ourselves. Rephrasing renowned educator Shalva Amonashvili, we would like to say, ‘We believe in the child! We believe in ourselves! We believe in the power of the Ladya program!’
M. Alfyorova Candidate of Pedagogical Sciences Out-Of-School Center ‘Rovesnik’
Kusa, Chalyabinsk Region