In honor of Child Abuse Prevention month, SEARHC is sharing different ways parents can help preserve their family relationships. When facing the many challenges of parenting, there are six key protective factors you can keep in mind. Combined with your own parenting experience, these habits will help to keep your family strong and your kids healthy and resilient.
1. Create nurturing and attachment moments with your children
The core of a strong family is built by spending time with each other. Make quality time with your children and key family members a priority. Take the time every day to find a way to connect mentally and emotionally with your family. This can be as simple as making sure nurturing physical contact is a part of your daily routines like a good morning hug or a joyful tussle of uncombed hair before bedtime. Take the time every evening to share the favorite part of your day or one thing you are looking forward to the next day. Look for different ways to make interactions with your children richer and more rewarding by talking to them while doing routine chores, asking questions about what they like and don’t like; listen to their responses. This consistent involvement in your children’s daily routine will build a foundation of trust and attachment that will make the more challenging moments easier to navigate because they are already comfortable with the amount of attention you give them.
2. Be an active learner when it comes to parenting
No child is born with an instruction manual, so parents have to be both critical and vigilant in their search for quality parenting information. In our digital age, there are numerous resources for parents available online. Some have higher quality than others. A good way to protect your family from poor parenting advice is to fact-check the information you read with trusted resources directly connected to your personal life, such as your family doctor, your child’s teacher or your relatives and close friends. Don’t be afraid to expand your parenting knowledge by taking a parenting class or joining an online parent support group to chat with other parents facing similar challenges.
3. Create a positive routine for yourself to help cope with stress
Being a parent means you will deal with swinging levels of child-related stress on an almost daily basis. Be sure to build time in your day from some quality “me” time. Reenergize yourself by doing something you enjoy for 30 minutes of the day. This could be as easy as taking a relaxing bath or reading a chapter in a book you enjoy. Another way to help your body prepare for the rigors of parenthood is by using physical exercise as an outlet for your frustrations. Make time for yourself to go on a brisk walk, stretch, do yoga or lift weights. No matter what personal activity you choose, try not to bottle up your emotions when it comes to coping with a tough day. Talk to a trusted confidant about your struggles and open up to someone who makes you feel good about who you are.
4. Build yourself a network of emotional support
In the past, children used to be raised by an entire village. Today, we have to take it upon ourselves to create our own social circles of support. Reach out to neighbors you respect and participate in neighborhood activities. Join a playgroup with parents who have children of similar ages to your own. This will give both you and your children an opportunity to socialize with different families together and learn from one another. If religious, consider joining faith community that welcomes families and has planned weekly activities. The more social connections we make with other parents with similar values, the less isolated we feel when facing unexpected parenting challenges.
5. Be aware of community resources that help support basic family needs
The best way to keep a strong relationship with your children is to make sure your family’s basic needs are met. Basic needs include stable housing, reliable food supply and access to healthcare and schooling. If any of those basic needs are at risk, be sure you educate yourself on where you can go for support. Ask for family resources at your doctor’s office or talk to counselors at your child’s school. In Alaska, you can also dial 2-1-1 to learn about organizations that support families where you live. There is no shame in asking for and accepting help when it’s needed.
6. Build routines to teach your children valuable social skills
Children come into the world with zero knowledge of social norms and behavior. Plenty of stressful challenges arise when your children are exposed to a new situation and they don’t know how to react. Make sure your children feel like they belong and are friendly with their peers by creating regular teachable routines for them to learn from. Create a comfortable, consistent schedule around meals, naps and bedtime so children learn early the concept of time and routine. Have honest discussions about age-appropriate behavior and encourage your children to discover good habits on their own by asking questions about what is and isn’t allowed.
By following these six tips on building protective factors within your family, you and your children will continue to have a healthy and strong relationship. Stay tuned this month for more tips and resources for parents!