The protective factors help families increase the health and well-being of the children. This information is important making sure children are successful at home, in school and as adults later in life at work and in the community. Protective factors help families find resources, supports or coping strategies that help them to parent effectively, even under stress.

  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

Nurturing and Attachment

Research shows that babies who receive affection and nurturing from their parents have the best chance of developing into children who are happy, healthy and competent. Research also shows that consistent relationship with a caring adult in the early years is associated with better grades, healthier behaviors, more positive peer interactions and increased ability to cope with stress later in life.

As children grow nurturing remains important for healthy physical and emotional development. Parents nurture their children by making time to listen to them, being involved and interested in their school and other activities, staying aware of their interests and friends, and being willing to advocate for the child when necessary.

Knowledge of Parenting and Child Development

Parents who understand the usual course of child development are better prepared to provide their children with respectful communication, consistent prepared to provide their children with respectful communication, consistent expectations and rules and opportunities that promote independence. When parents are not aware of normal developmental milestone, mistakenly interpret their child’s behavior in a negative way, or do not know how to respond to and effectively manage a child’s behavior, they can become frustrated and may retort to harsh discipline.

As children grow and mature, parents need to continue to learn and adapt how they respond to their children’s needs. Interacting with other children of similar ages helps parents better understand their own child. Observing other caregivers who use positive techniques for managing children’s behavior also provides an opportunity for parents to learn healthy alternatives.

Parenting styles need to be adjusted for each child’s unique temperament and circumstances. Parents of children with special needs may benefit from additional coaching and support to reduce frustration and help them understand their child’s unique needs.

Parental Resilience

Parents who can cope with the stresses of everyday life as well as an occasional crisis have resilience – the flexibility and inner strength to bounce back when things are not going well. Parents with resilience also know how to seek help in times of trouble. Their ability to deal with life’s ups and downs serves as model of coping behavior for their children.

Multiple life stressors, such as family history of abuse or neglect, physical or mental health problems, marital conflict, substance abuse, and domestic or community violence – and financial stressors such as unemployment, financial insecurity and homelessness – can reduce a parent’s capacity to cope effectively with the typical day-do-day stresses of raising children.

All parents have inner strengths or resources that can serve as a foundation for building their resilience. These may include faith, flexibility, humor, communication skills, problem solving skills, mutually supportive caring relationships, or the ability to identify and access outside resources and services when needed. All of these qualities help strengthen their capacity to parent effectively and can be nurtured and developed through supportive interactions with others.

Read part two of the rest of The Six Protective Factors for Strengthening Families »

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