April is Child Abuse Month in the USA.
Protective factors are conditions in families and communities that, when present, increase the health and well-being of children and families. They are attributes that serve as buffers, helping parents who might otherwise be at risk of abusing their children to find resources, supports, or coping strategies that allow them to parent effectively, even under stress. All international teachers and counselors need to know what protective factors they can offer the parents they work with.
Sometimes the global nomads are the ones at most risk.
I was on an American Foreign Service Association panel on TCK’s, where Ruth Van Reken pointed out that sexual abuse was a worldwide concern. Ruth is the leading authority in the social science field of ‘third culture kids”, ‘third culture adults” and “cross-cultural kids.”
Research has shown that these protective factors link to a lower incidence of child abuse and neglect.
Six Protective Factors
1) Nurturing and Attachment
I often blog about the importance of attachment, in fact, I do it so much, that I am considered an attachment specialist. When parents and children have strong, positive feelings for one another, children develop trust that their parents will provide what they need to thrive, including love, acceptance, positive guidance, and protection.
The impact of nurturing on development:
- Information about infant and toddler development, including brain development
- The importance of an early secure attachment between parents and young children
- Examples of secure parent-child attachment at all ages
Parenting strategies that promote nurturing:
- Cultural differences in how parents and children show affection
- How fathers nurture children
- Ways to engage other important adults as part of a child’s “nurturing network.”
2) Knowledge of Parenting and Child Development
Parents who understand how children grow and develop can provide an environment where children can live up to their potential. Addressing developmental challenges such as inconsolable crying, bedwetting, eating or sleeping problems, lying, school issues, problems with peers, and puberty is important things parents need to know.
3) Parental resilience
Resilience is the ability to handle everyday stressors and recovers from occasional crises. Parents who are emotionally resilient have a positive attitude, creatively solve problems, effectively address challenges, and are less likely to direct anger and frustration at their children. When parents identify and communicate what worries them most, there is an opportunity to offer some coping strategies and resources to begin to deal with the stress. Parents are not always aware how their ability to cope with stress may impact their capacity to parent and their children’s development.
Find ways to build resilience
- Stress management techniques, such as regular exercise, relaxation to music, and meditation or prayer
- How to prevent stress by planning ahead, anticipating difficulties, and having resources in place
- How to anticipate and minimize everyday stress
- How to handle major stressors, including accessing resources and supports from family, friends, faith communities, and other community resources
4) Social connections
Evidence linked social isolation and perceived the lack of support to child maltreatment. Trusted and caring family and friends provide emotional support to parents by offering encouragement and assistance in facing the daily challenges of raising a family. Sometimes parents will not identify a lack of social connections or emotional support as an issue. Instead, they may express concern about a child’s behavior problem or their depression.
Benefits of a broad social network
- Helps ease the burden of parenting
- Models positive social interactions for children and gives children access to other supportive adults
- Provides support in crises
- Offers opportunities to help others
5) Concrete support for parents
Many factors beyond the parent-child relationship affect a family’s ability to care for their children. Language or cultural barriers may make it difficult for some parents to identify services and carry out the necessary contacts. Providing information and connections to concrete supports can be a tremendous help to families under stress or in crisis.
6) Social and emotional competence of children
Just like learning to walk, talk, or read, children must also learn to identify and express emotions effectively. When a child has the right tools for healthy emotional expression, parents are better able to respond to his or her needs, which strengthens the parent-child relationship. Parents can help children learn to identify and properly communicate their feelings to others.
You can play a major role in helping parents explore and assess their child’s emotional and social development with some of the following strategies:
- Help children understand their emotions by first giving the feelings names and then encouraging them to talk about how they are feeling.
- Use pictures, books, and other visual elements to help the child understand his or her emotions.
- Give children opportunities to suggest different ways he or she can deal with feelings.
- Teach children the different methods for responding to feelings, conflicts, or problems such as taking deep breaths, stepping away from the situation to calm down, or asking an adult for help.
- Praise the child for healthy emotional expression.
History of Child Abuse Month (USA)
Increasing public awareness of the need to ensure the safety and welfare of children (1974) led to the passage of the first Federal child protection legislation, the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA). The U.S. Senate and House of Representatives resolved that the week of June 6-12, 1982, should be designated as the first National Child Abuse Prevention Week. In 1983, April was proclaimed the first National Child Abuse Prevention Month.
In 1989, the Blue Ribbon Campaign to Prevent Child Abuse began as a Virginia grandmother’s tribute to her grandson who died as a result of abuse. She tied a blue ribbon to the antenna of her car as a way to remember him and to alert her community to the tragedy of child abuse. The Blue Ribbon Campaign has since expanded across the country; many people wear blue ribbons each April in memory of those who have died as a result of child abuse and in support of efforts to prevent abuse.
When the U.S. Surgeon General named 2005 the Year of the Healthy Child, there was renewed commitment to make child abuse prevention a national priority. OCAN invited 26 national organizations to be national child abuse prevention partners so the message could reach a wider audience.
Notes: adapted from the US Department of Health and Human Services Administration for Children and Families
Preventing Child Maltreatment and Promoting Well-Being: A Network for Action 2012 Resource Guide or find additional resources on Information Gateway
National Alliance of Children’s Trust and Prevention Funds. (2011). Parent ambassadors: A parent’s guide to participation using the strengthening families approach. http://www.ctfalliance.org/images/pdfs/TN_ParentGuide.pdf (PDF – 1823 KB).
The Center on the Social and Emotional Foundations for Early Learning. (2010).Teaching your child to identify and express emotions. http://csefel.vanderbilt.edu/documents/teaching_emotions.pdf (PDF – 2774 KB).
ZERO TO THREE. Tips on nurturing your child’s social-emotional development.