As parents, we’ve all had one of those never-ending days full of stresses, messes and fussy kids. Even those seemingly perfect parents face temper tantrums, spills and sleepless nights. Parenting can be even more challenging when you throw in the extra challenges of frequent relocations and deployments. There are a few simple things you can do to help alleviate that stress and make sure your family is happy, healthy and safe.
Protective factors are conditions in families and communities that, when present, increase the health and well-being of your family. They can help you create a great family environment that promotes healthy child development and reduces the headaches of parenthood. These six protective factors build on your family's strengths and can easily be incorporated into your everyday routine:
- Nurture and attachment – We all know that kissing a scratch or a big bear hug can go a long way to turning a frown into a smile on our children’s face. Research has shown that simple acts of affection, such as hugs or loving words, have a significant impact on the positive growth and development of your children. With our older children, this can also mean taking more time to listen to their worries or be involved with after-school activities. Nurturing children of any age encourages healthy physical and emotional development.
- Knowledge of parenting and child development – While you are an expert in understanding your children's personalities and unique behaviors, you might not always know what to expect of them in terms of typical developmental milestones. Knowing what your children are capable of and setting realistic expectations for their behavior can take a lot of stress and frustration out of parenting on a day-to-day basis. That is why keeping up with the latest information about parenting techniques and child development is so important.
- Parental resilience – Life comes with ups and downs. When the downs seem like they outnumber the ups, it’s important to know how to deal with the stress in a way that doesn’t affect your parenting. As a parent, you have inner strengths and support systems you can tap into, such as your faith, sense of humor or relationships with friends and family. The ability to identify stress and deal with it in a healthy way not only increases your well-being, but also shows your kids a model for positive ways to cope.
- Social connections – There is truth in the adage, "It takes a village to raise a child." Having a solid group of friends and family to offer assistance and give you advice can take the edge off a rough day, and allow you to enjoy your family even more.
- Concrete supports for parents – There are lots of things that can greatly affect the stability of your family, such as financial insecurity, lack of adequate housing or employment issues. That is why it’s important to have support measures in place, both in the community and at home, to help you overcome these challenges. Reach out to your military and family support center to learn about programs and services on your installation or in the local community that might be able to help your family. You can also speak with a Military OneSource consultant by calling 800-342-9647.
- Social and emotional competence of children – Your children's ability to connect and interact with the world around them has a positive impact on their relationships. Whether it’s playing with the neighborhood kids or expressing emotions, your kids are learning different ways to connect. However, they will always make mistakes and their behavior can be challenging at times. Understanding this, and being able to identify developmental delays, can make challenging behaviors easier to deal with. Early work with children to keep their development on track helps keep them safe and fosters healthy development.
For more information about protective factors and how to strengthen them in your family, visit the U.S. Administration for Children and Families website on protective factors.