Once you become a parent, you aren’t given a handbook showing exactly what to do and how to help your child. It can be confusing and often frustrating. Families sometimes face tremendous hardship or carry trauma that passes on from generation to generation. This can lead to parenting challenges, strife among family members, substance use, loneliness, depression, hopelessness and even thoughts of suicide. Any journey without a roadmap can be difficult, and while there is no parenting guidebook, we do know some things that help a family stay strong and healthy.
Here are five protective factors based on years of research in the Strengthening Families™ approach developed by the Center for the Study of Social Policy. Building these five protective factors increases the likelihood for healthy child development and for your family to remain strong, avoiding risks like child abuse and neglect.
- Social and emotional competence: the ability to manage and control emotions and behaviors. By working with your children to have positive parent-child interactions, you can help develop a stable, calm and nurturing environment for your child to learn healthy ways to communicate.
- Social connections: the ability to connect and interact with others. This can include a strong relationship between the child and parent, friendships with peers, family members and individuals in the community. When both you as the parent and your child can feel strong connections, you can turn to them during challenging times for guidance, advice, and encouragement.
- Concrete support: the ability to provide basic needs like food, clothing, housing, transportation, and access to health care. When you are able to secure these concrete supports, your stress level decreases and they help to ensure the safety and well-being of your children.
- Knowledge of parenting and child development: the ability and willingness to learn how to parent well and support your child’s development. These can include learning about prenatal care, how to discipline and positively impact child behavior, setting limits and monitoring your child.
- Resilience: the ability to have healthy coping skills for the stresses you may encounter as a parent or in crisis. This includes developing the skills needed to be flexible in situations, meet challenges and overcome adversities.
These five researched-based protective factors are aimed at increasing each family’s strengths, enhancing healthy childhood development and reducing the likelihood of child abuse and neglect.
While each family has its own story, it’s clear that the parents are often the heroes. They overcome tremendous obstacles including past childhood trauma, addiction, and lack of support to keep their children safely at home. With the right framework in place to strengthen families, we can all support parents and protect children.
KVC Health Systems, a nonprofit organization working to create strong families and healthy communities, has published a 12-part parenting skills blog series based on the Parent Management Training – Oregon (PMTO) model. PMTO is developed on 40 years of research and practice with the core belief that parents are their children’s best teachers. KVC teaches this empowering, evidence-based practice to parents and caregivers involved in the child welfare system, but the lessons learned from this model can be beneficial for any parent or caregiver. Read all of the articles in this parenting skills blog series.