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It's good to live!

 Scientific studies and everyday public, school and family experiences show that young people get intoxicated more frequently and often at a very young age. The most common is alcohol use, followed by the drug use.


European study ESPAD is warning about the seriousness of intoxication among young people. The study is being done every three years with first year students. Anton Trstenjak Institute for Gerontology and Intergenerational Relations has been working on in-depth qualitative research about drinking among the young people. The investigation pointed out three main risk factors that lead to intoxication and addiction. The results were published in scientific monograph Pitje mladih written by Jože Ramovš and Ksenija Ramovš.

After 1995 the use of illegal drugs among young people increased. Foreign researches of preventive actions against intoxication of young people found out that a good part of well-intentioned prevention programs achieved rather opposite effect – the increase of the intoxication, whereas the other preventive programs had neither positive nor negative results. Critical findings in recent years are the basis for new discoveries about the risk factors for drinking and intoxication of young people.

On the initiative of Municipality of Ljubljana and the number of primary school principals, but also based upon social, scientific and political starting points, in 2006 Anton Trstenjak Institute started with the implementation of the program Prevention of drinking of young people in primary schools.


The guidelines of the program are:

Scientific discoveries and everyday experiences give us two access points for successful prevention of intoxication and addiction among the young people:

  • Cooperative attitude of five main partners: children, their parents, school teachers, other pedagogical workers, professionals in the fields of intoxication and addiction and young volunteers.
  • A suitable time and place for the preventive campaign is the period just before puberty. Intensive work is done in regular schools in the 5th grade of primary school and with the participation of parents, teachers, volunteers and professionals. The program is followed by a yearly refresher work in the form of two long intensive workshops every school year until their end of primary school.


Successful prevention of intoxication and addiction consists of three inseparable elements:

  • professional knowledge about the intoxicating substances (alcohol, illegal drugs, tobacco), addictions (gambling) and other intoxicating disorders (eating disorders),
  • training to identify genuine personal needs, forming and advocating personal points of view on the matter,
  • process of training of good habits that allow the young person practical realisation of personal views, which protect against intoxication and addictions; these habits are the major part of a healthy lifestyle - attaining good habits is the largest and most complex element of successful prevention of intoxication and addiction.


The prevention program must be implemented in the society for a longer period of time, such as a time of growing up of the whole generation (ie at least 25 years). Only long-term work can provide effective preventive of intoxication and addiction. The beginnings of the program take place in primary schools under the active guidance of trained professionals. Later, at the end of primary school education, the aim is that schools are collaborating with parents and volunteers (a work group that consists of those who were initially involved in the program) to continue and upgrade the preordained path.


The highlights of the program

Each educational meeting of the teachers, principals, counsellors, volunteers, parents and children aims to do a collective and anonymous individual evaluation of the current work on the program. We then analyse collected responses about how the participants experienced the program, what suits and benefits them, what are they missing or are bothered by, and also their open questions.

  • The children are satisfied with the teaching lessons of the program It is nice to live. They are pleased with volunteers, the students that engage in the learning process in and out of school. A workshop manner of social learning through discussion, games and other active methods accompanied with their experiences pleases them. Some of their thoughts on the program:

I learned that alcohol is dangerous; and what I am good at.

• I've learned what alcohol can do and how to respond if someone offers me alcohol and other things.

• Knowledge will benefit me when someone asks me, if want a drink. Then I’ll be able to strongly say no.

• When I grow up, I will drink wisely.

• It will benefit me, if I ever had to rethink the situation in a bad company.

• I learned that with gambling, it is hard to win. When there is something wrong on Facebook, you should tell it to your parents or the police as soon as possible.

• Well, I learned to eat properly and I realized that some people are not as bad as they seem. Also maybe that breakfast is very important and from now on I will always eat "strong" breakfast.

• The most interesting for me was when my classmates wrote on my back and then we saw what anyone thinks about another.

  • Final evaluation of student responses shows their contentment with their specific and useful part within the program. Their training, voluntary work and successful mutual cooperation is evaluated as one of the best experiences. Here are some of their statements:

• I got a very good impression of the program from the first training on. The energy and positivity of all participants was really unique and I believe that we have transferred that energy into classes.

• The most beautiful experience of this year's workshop was the closing ceremony for the 5th graders: When the parents came, children showed their products, the atmosphere was great and I think everyone was very excited. That was for me a confirmation and the best feedback.

• I realised that I like working with the children, but also that the positive authority is sometimes difficult to achieve and maintain. Actually, this was my first real experience from the other side of the chair, and I appreciate the insight into the teaching work and its complexity. I've learned that there are opportunities for quality education.

  • The method of social learning is also used when working with parents. Together we are seeking solutions and defining safety factors.  The following is a brief summary of their analysed responses:

• The first place takes the example of a healthy lifestyle of parents themselves which is then transferred to their children. This lifestyle includes their attitude towards alcohol drinking, open and clear discussion about alcohol and other drugs.

• Open, relaxed, constructive and genuine conversation between the family members.

The relationship between parents, children and other people; especially a trusting relationship with the child that ensures support, security and enables the child to trust parents even in difficult moments.

• Parents wish to help their children to build a positive self-image and a healthy self-esteem, which they believe is crucial to prevent the use of alcohol and drugs later in life.

Leisure time and its use. Parents believe that their life should be a good example for quality leisure time spending. They list sports, music, clubs, work and life in nature, art, reading ... Children are to be motivated and encouraged to integrate into appropriate activites.

Peers and partnership are two of the most important factors for maintaining the quality of life and to safeguard them from the intoxication. The parents are very much aware that the company can have an important impact on child’s decision to use alcohol or/and drugs. They accentuate the importance of the good company.

  • The teachers included in the program are involved in group seminar that is based on social learning. Here are some of their thoughts:

• I am pleased that our school is one of those who will contribute to the reduction and prevention of the intoxication.

• It is a right thing that we dare to publicly and loudly speak out about urgent issues, not just about hard drugs, but also alcohol.

• Workshops with children are active; the volunteers are well trained and know how to motivate the children in thinking and solving concrete tasks.

• A good school is the one that breathes prevention itself. A volunteer and a teacher have a strong influence on the students with their personalities and their experiences and when they know how to respectfully and playfully deliver it to the children. It is important that every participant be well aware of his or hers influence and use it consciously. The humour is necessary.

© 2010 - Inštitut Antona Trstenjaka za gerontologijo in medgeneracijsko sožitje