Ask any parent if they were prepared for the challenges of raising a child when becoming a parent and the answer will likely be “no.” Parenting is difficult, parenting in times of stress or crisis even more so. There are five known factors, that have been shown to support families and equip them to handle life’s challenges in a healthy way.
Parents face numerous stressors in their lives, and each differ in their ability to function through the demands made of them, the challenges they face, and through their history of adversity. Resilience refers to one’s ability to bounce back from hardships and recover emotionally and physically. Resilience can be strengthened in adulthood and in doing so, provide great modeling for children. Some important tools are getting exercise, practicing stress reducing techniques and improving executive function and self-regulation skills to better respond to stress.1
Friends and family can play a supportive role for parents and children. Positive social connections help parents to feel less alone and provide a network of support. Strong relationships help parents feel confident, empowered, and able to reach out for help. Parents and caregivers also need strong connections to their neighborhoods and community to reduce isolation and increase a broader sense of belonging and mutual support.
Knowledge of effective parenting strategies and child development helps parents to know what to expect as their children grow and helps to ease some of the stressors of parenting by helping parents respond to challenges in a positive way. Parents’ knowledge of child development supports their child in developing their physical, cognitive, language, social and emotional skills. When parents understand typical developmental milestones, they can also be on the lookout for potential problems and connect with interventions early to keep kids on track for school and social success.
Ensuring that essential needs are met by providing concrete supports to parents and families is critical. When parents are unable to meet the basic needs of their children parental stress rises and that puts kids at greater risk. Concrete supports include housing, food, and medical care. These are essentials that parents and children need to thrive in their lives. These resources can be scarce, and the systems that provide such supports are often complex—knowing where to turn for these resources can help families survive hard times. Everyone can help ensure children and families have what they need by supporting policies that focus on the needs (housing, food, health care, education, etc.) of all families.
Fostering social and emotional competence in young children, equips them with skills (including empathy, self-regulation, self-esteem, confidence, patience, and others) that can be utilized to form a foundation for healthy relationships throughout their lifetime. These skills lead to positive outcomes for families, and lead to positive outcomes in adulthood and in becoming parents later. Children’s own social and emotional skills have been shown to support families, preventing negative outcomes.
These five protective factors were developed by the Center for the Study of Social Policy’s Strengthening Families Framework.2 To learn more about child abuse and neglect in Spokane County, including additional research about prevention and other protective factors, please visit the Confronting Violence Report.3
1“Resilience,” Center on the Developing Child Harvard University, https://developingchild.harvar..., last accessed March 9, 2020
2“Protective Factors Framework,” Center for the Study of Social Policy, last modified 2019, https://cssp.org/our-work/proj....
3Beck, AD, “Confronting Violence,” Spokane Regional Health District —Data Center, last modified July 2017, https://srhd.org/media/documen....