Knowing about child abuse, its definition and types is important. However, getting acquainted with information on protective factors is even more critical and is proven in reducing and eliminating cases of child abuse and neglect. These factors help ensure that children and youth function well at home, in school, at work and in the community.
Research has found that positive interventions must both decrease risk factors and promote protective factors to guarantee child and family well-being (www.childwelfare.org).
Nurturing and Attachment
Our fast-paced life and juggling the demands of work, home and other responsibilities, may lead some parents to feel that they have no time to spend with their children. Nonetheless, small acts of kindness, caring and offering safety count — a loving word, a hug, a lunch note — make a big difference. Research shows that babies who receive affection and nurturing from their parents have the best chance of developing into children, teens, and adults who are happy, healthy and possess individual-level protective factors such a relational, self-regulation and problem solving skills. Research also shows that a consistent relationship with caring loving adults in early years of life is associated with better grades, healthier behaviors, more positive peer interaction, and an increased ability to cope with stress later in life (www.childwelfare.org)
Knowledge of Parenting and Child Development
When parents are not aware of normal developmental milestones, interpret their child’s behaviors in a negative way, or do not know how to respond to and effectively manage a child’s behavior, they can become frustrated and may resort to harsh punishment. Information about child development and parenting may come from many sources, including extended families, media, and parent education classes. Interacting with other children of similar ages also helps parents better understand their own child. Observing other caregivers who use positive parenting techniques provide an opportunity for parents to learn healthy alternatives.
Parents who can cope with stress as well as occasional crisis, have flexibility— the flexibility to bounce back when things are not going well. Their ability to deal with life’s ups and downs serves as a model of coping behavior for their children. All parents have inner strengths or resources that can help in building their resilience. For instance, faith, flexibility, humor, communication skills, supportive caring relationships, or the ability to identify and access outside resources and services when needed.
Parents with a network of supportive friends, family, and neighbors often find that it is easier to care for their children and themselves. We all need people we can call when we need a sympathetic listener, advice, or assistance in occasional child care. In other words, a positive and supportive community environment. On the other hand, research has shown that parents who are isolated and have few social connections are at higher risk for child abuse and neglect. Being new to a community, recently divorced, or a first-time parents makes a support network even more important.