According to the Child Welfare Information Gateway, protective factors are conditions or attributes in individuals, families, communities or the larger society that, when present, mitigate or eliminate risk in families and communities that, when present, increase the health and well-being of children and families.
Six protective factors have been identified by the United States Department of Health and Human Services. This article will explore the protective factor of “parental resilience;” the ability to bounce back when times get tough.
Most people would agree that resilience is a good thing but may be confused about what resilience actually is. Resilience is considerably more than just being able to function following a difficult time in your life.
Family resilience is the ability to develop and grow strengths that can help you meet life’s challenges, be able to work through them in a positive way, and emerge stronger in the process.
Practicing resiliency skills is an ongoing process - not something you only use when times get tough. You may be surprised to learn that building resilience is not difficult.
North Carolina Cooperative Extension identifies four things families can do on a daily basis to nurture the skills needed to be flexible and able to “bounce back” when life situations don’t go exactly as you’d imagined.
You may already be using some of these techniques, but being purposeful about improving you and your family’s skills in the following areas, you can increase your overall resiliency.
- Plan ahead. Make a list of your family activities and rate them according to importance. Give the most energy to the most important activities and schedule your family time to include those at the top of the list. An important way to deal with stressors that come with everyday life is to include healthy meals, plenty of physical activity, time for needed rest and a good night’s sleep for all family members. Work on a family spending plan that accommodates the “needs” on the top of your list and try to stick to a planned family budget.
- Work together as a family. Every family member should have some way to contribute to daily tasks and family activities. Even toddlers can assist in picking up toys or matching socks. Show encouragement for cooperation. When family members are in control of a task and confident in their skills, they become more self-reliant. Be open and honest in your communication; even when topics are difficult. Sharing thoughts with your family about sensitive topics can show them you respect their opinion. Good communication skills include showing genuine affection, love and forgiveness (when needed). In his book, Forgive for Good, Dr. Fred Luskin highlights the research-proven correlation between forgiveness and improved health outcomes.
- Let experience be your teacher. When you provide support and a safe environment for family members, you can avoid the pain and hurt that often comes with past negative experiences. Use “I” messages to describe your feelings to avoid the feeling of judgment that can accompany a “you” message. Examples include: “I am frustrated the toys are still not picked up,” instead of “you never do what you’re told.” Involve family members in problem-solving and teamwork to reach a goal or change behaviors. Try, try again when things don’t seem to be working; employ a new strategy or involve new people who can support your efforts.
- Enjoy your time together. Plan family activities that are low- or no-cost and can give all family members time to unwind and enjoy each other. Celebrate successes! Plan a special meal to showcase your child’s or your own smaller accomplishments that often get lost in the myriad of schedules, family events and holidays. Explore programs that can teach you about ways to reduce the stress that can come with hectic schedules and complex family relationships.
RELAX; Alternatives to Anger and Nurturing Families programs offer real-life solutions for every-day family issues and can help you build “resilience” for yourself and your family.
Strong families look for, ask for and follow through with finding resources and people who can help to support them and make them even stronger!
For additional articles in the Important Protective Factor series, view Part 1 and Part 2.