How do I strengthen my family with the “Five Protective Factors?”
Setting a family up for success requires much more than access to adequate food, clothing and shelter. Beyond basic needs, families need a variety of tools and support to manage the challenges of raising happy, healthy children. One of the ways governments and other organizations can help support families is through cultivating the ‘Five Protective Factors.’ These factors are characteristics in parents, families and communities that help protect children from abuse and neglect and increase the overall health and well-being of families.
The Center for the Study of Social Policy (CSSP), a national non-profit organization, constructed these Five Protective Factors as a research-based blueprint aimed at strengthening families, boosting childhood development and reducing childhood abuse and neglect. Their approach is helpful for policy makers and other child welfare entities, but it’s also a helpful guide for parents and caregivers striving to strengthen their families at home. Here is a look at the Five Protective Factors and how individuals can put them to work in their own lives:
- Protective Factor #1: Resilience. Resilience is the ability to recover quickly from difficulties and the inner wherewithal to bounce back from tough times. Parents and caregivers with demonstrated resilience are better able to protect their children from life’s stressors, and they’re also more likely to raise resilient children in the process. At home, parents and caregivers can work on improving their own resilience by learning strategies to cope with stress. Setting good sleep habits, practicing positive thinking, setting goals and fostering self-confidence will all help increase resilience.
- Protective Factor #2: Social Connections. When a parent or caregiver is the beneficiary of strong social connections, their parenting is more responsive and individual rates of depression, anxiety and anger much lower. Seek out positive parenting groups or other organizations that can offer social connection and support, keeping in mind that individual personalities and habits are often shaped by the five people closest to you. Maintaining positive social connections can help equate to positive parenting and a stronger family overall.
- Protective Factor #3: Parental Knowledge. While it would be nice to think parenting just comes naturally, that’s only partly true. A lot of good parenting is learned, and this includes information about child development and appropriate expectations for children at different ages. Like any other skill, there is infinite information to be found and studied online, but parental knowledge can also be found in parenting classes, garnered from a child’s teacher or other educator, or learned from trusted family members or friends. When parents know what they can reasonably expect their child to be capable of, it can help them view their children more positively and strengthen their family experience.
- Protective Factor #4: Emotional Competence. Emotional competence is an ability to form positive bonds with those around us by communicating our feelings and problem solving in appropriate, regulated ways. Social and emotional competence can be greatly enhanced with the support of a licensed professional therapist, but there are steps parents and caregivers can take on their own, too. Practice being a good listener, taking responsibility for your actions, empathizing with others, sharing your own feelings, handling criticism maturely and utilizing healthy coping mechanisms.
- Protective Factor #5: Concrete Supports. When life proves challenging for families, their ability to turn to ‘concrete supports’ in their community can help protect their children and strengthen their family. These concrete supports include the many resources and services available to families in their communities, such as local governments, non-profit organizations, religious establishments, local hospitals, support groups and more. They provide everything from after-school child care and counseling to food and housing assistance and beyond. Parents and caregivers should not hesitate to seek out these services whenever they’re experiencing family stress. Asking for help when it’s needed can be one of the best ways to protect your children and keep your family strong during challenging times.
For more information on strengthening your family and protecting your children, visit the South Carolina Children’s Trust online at www.scchildren.org or the Center for the Study of Social Policy at www.cssp.org.
By ABC Quality Team on December 20, 2022