By Jennifer Simmons
Special to GUIDON
Often, the discussion surrounding prevention of child abuse is how to recognize the signs and symptoms of abuse and how to report abuse.
While these elements are important to discuss, research conducted by the Center for the Study of Social Policy indicates that focusing on five key protective factors is what contributes to a family’s strength; and building strong, healthy families can help to prevent child abuse.
The five key protective factors are parental resilience, social connections, knowledge of parenting and child development, concrete support in times of need, and social and emotional competence of children.
Developing parental resilience can offset the stress and potential for an unpleasant outcome for children and families when faced with difficult situations. Ask yourself, “If I lost my job today, how would my family demonstrate our resiliency?” “What resources can we access to improve our family’s situation?”
It is not what happens to you, but how you react to what happens that determines the strength and resilience of you and your family.
Having a social network of supportive friends and family can ease the pressure of taking care of a family.
Utilizing your support network for guidance, creative ideas, and inspiration to manage the stress that life throws at you can reduce family stress. Ask yourself, “Where can I go to build a network of support I can depend on?”
Having friends and family to help cope with difficult times and celebrate during the good times is essential to the strength of a family.
Knowledge of parenting and child development is an excellent way to prevent many parental frustrations that come from raising children.
Being an informed parent can help set realistic expectations for your child and offer the knowledge needed to build a strong relationship with your child. Ask yourself, “How do I know what my child needs as he/she grows and develops?” Your child’s pediatrician, other parents, and online resources can help increase your knowledge of child development and parenting.
Concrete support in times of need can help a family work through both good and bad life events that present challenges and family stress.
Would you know where to seek help with food, how to write a résumé, or where to apply for jobs in the event you lost yours? All families can easily manage unknown events if they have a road map to where the resources are and then decide to use the available resources.
Fostering the social and emotional competence of your children can help them to develop and establish relationships that are more positive.
Does your child know how to express how they feel? If something made them uncomfortable, could they effectively communicate their feelings?
As a parent/caregiver, do you model healthy and proper ways to express your feelings?
The Army Community Service Family Advocacy Program offers the tools to strengthen the five protective factors necessary to build strong, healthy families and prevent child abuse and neglect. For more information or a schedule of courses, call 573.596.0212 or visit leonardwood.armymwr.com/programs/army-community-services.
For additional information on the protective factors framework, visit www.childwelfare.gov.
(Editor’s note: Simmons is a Family Advocacy Program education specialist.)