This post is a continuation of The Six Protective Factors of Strengthening Families »

In our previous post we discussed the first three of the six protective factors of strengthening families.

  1. Nurturing and Attachment
  2. Knowledge of Parenting and Child Development
  3. Parental Resilience
  4. Social Connections
  5. Concrete Supports for Parents
  6. Social and Emotional Competence of Children

In this article we review the fourth through sixth protective factors.


Social Connections

Parents with a network of emotionally supportive friends, neighbors and family often find it is easier to care for their children and themselves. Most parents need people they can call on once in a while when they need a sympathetic listener, advice or support, such as transportation or occasional child care. A parent’s supportive relationships also model positive social interactions for children, while giving children access to other supportive adults. On the other hand, research has shown that parents who are isolated and have few social connections are at higher risk for child abuse and neglect.

Being new to a community, recently divorced or a first-time parent makes a support network even more important. Some parents may need to develop self-confidence and social skills to expand their social networks. Opportunities -for social connections exist within faith-based organizations, schools, hospitals, community centers and other places where support groups or social groups ,meet.

Concrete Supports for Parents

Families whose basic needs (for food, clothing, housing and transportation) are met have more time and energy to devote to their children’s safety and well­being. When parents do not have steady financial resources, lack health insurance or face a family crisis (such as a natural disaster or the incarceration of a parent), their ability to support their children’s healthy development may be at risk. Some families may also need assistance connecting to social service supports such as alcohol and drug treatment, domestic violence counseling or public benefits.

Parents who identify and access resources in their community may help prevent stresses that sometimes lead to child maltreatment. Finding concrete supports may also help prevent the unintended neglect that sometimes occurs when parents are unable to provide for their children.

Social and Emotional Competence of Children

Children’s emerging ability to interact positively with others, self-regulate their behavior and effectively communicate their feelings has a positive impact on their relationships with their family, other adults and peers. Parents, guardians and caregivers grow more responsive to children’s needs-and are less likely to feel stressed or frustrated-as children learn to tell parents what they need and how parental actions make them feel, rather than “acting out” difficult feelings.

Children’s challenging behaviors or delays in social emotional development create extra stress for families. Parenting is more challenging when children do not or cannot respond positively to their parents’ nurturing and affection. Identifying and working with children early to keep their development on track helps their parents facilitate healthy development.

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