Friday, December 23, 2016

5 Protective Factors for Health yFamilies

This is a nationwide initiative that aims to develop and enhance five characteristics  that keep families strong and children safe from abuse and neglect.  Our staff attended a training that was focused on how we, as professionals who serve families, can help families develop these characteristics with the ultimate goal of prevention of abuse and neglect in our community.
The first factor is Social and Emotional Competence of Children
This is the only one that addresses issues with the children themselves.  We talked about how you develop this social/ emotional competence in children and how having this competence would help families be less reactive.  Social Emotional Competence is basically the ability of children to regulate their emotions, form secure attachments, and explore and learn within the framework of their family, culture and community.  We can foster this in a number of ways, including setting children up for success by eliminating barriers.  For example, if a little one struggles with grabbing breakables, we move those out of reach.  We might include activities in programming that help them with their social and emotional skills–sharing, collaboration, discussion of emotion in stories etc.  We can also help parents by normalizing certain behaviors–your toddler is having a fit about leaving the train table?  ”That’s totally normal!”  ”It’s no big deal”, and here are some ways we can help make your exit easier.  Our staff and yours does this already in the way we encourage parents of rambunctious toddlers to come to storytime anyway because movement is expected.  We also model nurturing support for caregivers.  So someone who is feeling impatient with their child, may see a new way to interact more positively.
Ways families can encourage this development is by playing games, helping kids recognize their emotions, develop strategies to control their emotions in stressful situations, and empathize with their kids.
The next factor is Knowledge of Parenting and Child Development.
It might seem obvious to us that understanding appropriate child development will help parents be more patient.  For example, it’s a normal piece of development that children try lying to their parents.  It means they are realizing their thoughts are their own, that they are separate entities from their parents, and that parents are not omniscient.  Knowing that all (or most) children go through this phase helps take the pressure off of parents who feel they have a “bad” kid.  We can very easily support this factor by helping connect families to resources on child development and brain development.  We can also create such a positive and welcoming space for families and develop our reputation as experts so that they naturally approach us for more information.  Back to the storytime example, we let parents know that toddlers are not meant to sit still for thirty minutes–this helps them feel better about their wild thing babies they might have otherwise feared bringing into our space.
Social Connections is the next factor
This is the idea that it takes a village.  We need to build our positive social connections if we are going to create successful families.  We do this now by encouraging families to visit and chat after programs.  One of our Librarians works with teen moms and invites them to attend storytime and see great parenting skills modeled by older parents.  We make sure all of our locations are warm and welcoming for families so they see us as an extension of their social networks.  Even if we aren’t someone they can ask for a ride, they know they can ask us for help in numerous other ways.
Parental Resilience is a commitment to develop self care and have the ability to face challenges.  It isn’t a contest over who has faced the most adversity, but rather a way of thinking about how caregivers face challenges.  We talked about encouraging self care–breaks, exercise, healthy eating, etc.  When things are going badly, to make sure people take care of themselves so that in turn they have the fortitude to care for their kids.
Finally, we discussed the concept of Concrete Supports
These are the resources in our community that help with concrete needs.  Food, shelter, childcare assistance, etc.  So our goal here at the library is not only to KNOW who to send someone to, depending on their needs, but to be the kind of place that families feel very comfortable coming to for help.

Overall, this training was pretty helpful in discussing how families build up their five protective factors to reduce neglect and abuse, and also how local community organizations can support that.
More info here:

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