The most important thing parents can do to prevent children from having a negative development outcome is to create a protective and caring environment in the families. Various theoreticians have highlighted the importance of protective factors in the familial setting and its positive impact on child development and their well-being. The following are some protective factors.
Managing stress and functioning well when faced with challenges, adversity and trauma.
The way parents respond to stressors is much more important than the stressor itself in determining the outcomes for themselves and their children. Parents who can manage day-today work stress and function well are said to be resilient. They are able to manage anger, anxiety, sadness, loneliness, and other negative feelings.
Parental resilience is the ability to constructively cope with and bounce back from all types of challenges. It is about creatively solving problems, building trusting relationships, maintaining a positive attitude, and seeking help when it is needed. In order to build trusting relationships parents need to spend time with children, observe their behavioural patterns like when your child lies and other eccentricities, etc. Receiving nurturing attention and developing a secure attachment with parents, fosters the development of resilience in children when they experience stress.
Parents need to understand that children learn and try to emulate their parents’ behavior. For instance, the way parents treat their subordinates, workers and house help in their day-to-day life will have an impact on their child’s behavior. If parents treat their subordinates with contempt, their children also learn the same behavior. The way adolescents in India deal with road rage incidences by threatening the police officers or drivers with “You don’t know who I am” is a classic example of impunity these children enjoy in their households. Therefore, parents should be mindful of how they use their power and position to act in various situations and what they are implicitly teaching to their children.
Having a sense of connectedness with constructive, supportive people and institutions
Friends, family members, neighbours and other members of a community provide emotional and social support to parents. For instance, in a joint family system, the grandparents used to take care of the younger ones but also guided new mothers into healthy child-rearing practices. Their guidance and assistance reduced the stress of new mothers and the mothers felt more confident in handling their babies. Social connections help parents build networks of support that serve multiple purposes: they can help parents develop and reinforce community norms around child-rearing, provide assistance in times of need, and serve as a resource for parenting information or help solving problems. Because isolation is a common risk factor for abuse and neglect in our societies. Thus, parents living in nuclear families need support in building positive friendships and strengthen their familial ties.
Understanding best practices of parenting and developmentally appropriate child skills and behaviours
Having accurate information about raising young children and appropriate expectations for their behaviours help parents better understand and take care of their children. It is important that information is available when parents need it, that is, when it is relevant to their life and their child. Parents whose own families used harsh discipline techniques or parents of children with developmental or behaviour problems or special needs require extra support in building this Protective Factor.
Identifying, accessing and receiving needed adult, child and family services
Parents need access to the types of concrete supports and services that can minimize the stress of difficult situations, such as a family crisis, a condition such as substance abuse, or stress associated with lack of resources. Building this Protective Factor is about helping to ensure the basic needs of a family, such as food, clothing, and shelter, are met and connecting parents and children to services, especially those that have a stigma associated with them, like domestic violence shelter or substance abuse counselling, in times of crisis.
Forming secure, positive adult and peer relationships; experiencing, regulating and expressing emotions
Parents these days are juggling with the demands of work, home, and other responsibilities. This leaves many parents feeling like they do not have enough time with/and for their children. What is needed to be acknowledged is that even small acts of kindness, protection and caring―a hug, a smile, or loving words―make a big difference to children. Research shows that a consistent relationship with a caring adult in the early years is associated with better grades, healthier behaviours, more positive peer interactions, and an increased ability to cope with stress later in life. Infant brains develop best when caregivers work to understand and meet the infant’s need for love, affection, and stimulation.
Social-emotional competence in early childhood, also known as Infant Mental Health, includes:
A child’s ability to interact positively with others, to self-regulate, and to effectively communicate his or her emotions has a great impact on the parent-child relationship. Children with challenging behaviours are more likely to be abused, so early identification and working with them helps keep their development on track and keeps them safe. Also, children who have experienced or witness violence need a safe environment that offers them opportunities to develop normally.