Is your family healthy? We spoke with an expert on the subject to get practical tips and tools you can practice at home.
Joy Chuba is the Executive Director at Children’s Advocacy Center Osceola, part of Embrace Families. She’s worked in the field of child abuse for 23 years and knows a thing or two about the characteristics of a healthy family.
The Six Protective Factors really enhance the parent’s abilities to support their children. Children are going to encounter stress, parents are going to encounter stress, and so are families. So the Six Protective Factors are really crucial for healthy development and help children overcome experiences that can be difficult.
When children and their parents feel a positive bond and warm feelings towards each other, it really helps the child feel confident that their caregiver’s going to basically keep them safe and meet their basic needs. It’s really important for healthy development.
Play with your children. Read with your infant. There are so many ways to develop that nurturing bond between the caregivers and the child.
Really understanding what development looks like for an infant, a toddler, a teenager, is all really part of adapting your parenting style. One example I can give you is at the center here, when we have a child who’s two or three, typically they’re all doing the same thing. They’re running around the office, saying “No” to their caregiver, touching everything in their sight. Sometimes that’s stressful for parents. I always respond the same way and say, “That’s their job at this age. That is developmentally right on track for your child.”
One really important part of it is if you notice your child isn’t developing the way that your pediatrician or the resources that you’ve looked at say they should be, then it’s an opportunity to get really early intervention for those children.
Really it’s about the parents having the ability to manage everyday stress; everyday stress of parenting and also occasional crises. When a parent is resilient, they have the resources and the strength to overcome stressful situations and still function and be able to meet their child’s needs.
Children learn from their caregivers. They are deeply influenced by the family system, so they are seeing and you’re modeling for them ways that they can build resilience into their own individuality.
Everyone needs support and very much so do parents. If you are a person who is isolated, that can be difficult for you to be resilient like one of the other protective factors we talked about. Having social supports, having family and friends you can rely on, is one of the qualities that help strengthen a family.
Concrete supports really mean anything that is basic to safety and life. Food, shelter, transportation, and really your basic needs - a hierarchy of needs, as Maslow would say.
Social and emotional competence is about the child’s ability to interact with their world, which of course, is largely influenced by how their caregivers interact with the child and what they teach them. There are elements of social and emotional competence that go both ways. Caregivers and parents should teach their children about expressing their emotions in a way that’s safe and be able to regulate their emotions, so calming down when they’re upset.
When you have a young toddler who’s crying, maybe having a fit, hold them, give them a teddy bear. Coach them through that. “You’re feeling upset, hug the teddy bear.” There are some really simple ways you can teach children how to regulate their emotions.
Children learn from their environment, so if they see caregivers who can manage their emotions, express them in a safe way, then children are more likely to model that.
Although we can’t completely eliminate all the stressors in life and all the difficult challenges families might face, there are things you can do within your family to promote healthy development and resilient children.
If you see a neighbor or you see a friend who’s having difficulty, and maybe they’ve just lost their job, you can offer to make them dinner, offer to care for their children. There are lots of things we can do to help each other so that we have strong, healthy communities.
You can talk with your pediatrician, you can talk with a trusted friend or counselor. You can also look at the ounce.org.
It’s really important that you take the time to check-in with your children regularly and keep those lines of communication open.