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Strengthening Your Family

Below are protective factors shown to help families be strong even during hard times. Every family can cultivate these traits:

mother and father with two children sitting on a wall

Nurturing and Attachment

Cuddling, playing, talking and listening build positive bonds. When parents and children have strong, warm feelings for one another, children develop trust that their parents will provide what they need to thrive, including love, acceptance, positive guidance, and protection.

Parenting strategies that promote nurturing

  • Infant care and strategies that promote bonding and attachment (e.g., breastfeeding, rocking, using a baby carrier, responding to crying, talking lovingly, consistency within and across caregivers, and stability of primary caregivers)
  • Cultural differences in how parents and children show affection
  • Engage other important adults as part of a child’s "nurturing network"
  • Creating and sustaining healthy marriages that better support a nurturing home environment for children
  • Ways to create quality time to play with children in the context of daily activities
  • Communicating effectively with older children and resolving conflicts

Parental Resilience

Parents who develop the flexibility and inner strength to cope with the stress of everyday life and the occasional crisis are able to bounce back when things are not going well.

Finding ways to build resilience in your family

  • Stress management techniques, such as regular exercise, relaxation to music, and meditation or prayer
  • Prevent stress by planning ahead, anticipating difficulties, and having resources in place
  • Anticipate and minimize everyday stress.
  • Learn how to handle major stressors, including accessing resources and supports from family, friends, faith communities, and other community resources.
  • Family management techniques, such as effective ways of communicating needs and concerns
  • Programs that offer family-to-family help or mentoring for personalized, intensive, sustained services or support, especially in times of crisis
  • Community supports such as mental health and counseling services, substance abuse treatment, domestic violence programs, and self-help support groups
  • Concrete skill building in areas such as problem solving, goal setting, communication, and self-care

Knowledge of Parenting and Child Development

No one is born knowing how to parent. It helps to learn success strategies for safely calming a crying baby, potty training, exercising age-appropriate discipline, and dealing with teenagers who no longer want to follow rules.

For Parents

  • Guide a child’s behavior and reinforce desired/appropriate behavior.
  • Parents can model desirable behavior.
  • Non-punitive disciplinary/teaching techniques, such as setting routines and limits, redirecting attention or behavior, and logical consequences for actions.

Social Connections

Getting together with friends, family and neighbors and attending school and community events helps families build positive, supportive relationships and reduces the sense of isolation that is a risk factor for child abuse and neglect.

Ways to broaden your social network

  • Overcome transportation, child care, and other barriers—for instance, taking a bus or carpool to a play group or joining a babysitting co-op to meet other parents and have occasional child care.
  • Access community resources.
  • Join a parent’s group or play group in the neighborhood, or start a new group.

Concrete Support in Times of Need

Especially in difficult economic times, families can feel like they're falling apart and don't know where to turn. Whether the need is food, shelter or treatment for substance abuse or mental illness a variety of state and community resources are available.

Building community services for your family

  • Linking parents with community leaders and others to organize support, advocacy, and consulting groups gives parents the opportunity to use their experience to help others.
  • Parents who go public with their need or cause usually find that they are not alone. The fact that a parent is willing to publicize a need or cause may mobilize the community.
  • Parents who are new to advocacy may need help connecting with the media, businesses, funding, and other parts of the community to have their needs heard and identify solutions.

Social and Emotional Competence of Children

Children's emerging ability to interact positively with others, self regulate their behavior, and effectively communicate their feelings has a positive impact on their relationships with their family, other adults, and peers. Parents and caregivers grow more responsive to children's needs and less likely to feel stressed or frustrated as children learn to tell parents what they need and how parental actions make them feel, rather than "acting out" difficult feelings.

As parents you can

  • Provide your child with responsive care.
  • Be affectionate and nurturing.
  • Help your child feel the joy found in the "give and take" of relationships.
  • Show your child that he or she is part of a large network of love.
  • Nurture the child's respect for differences.
  • Promote an appreciation of their culture and the culture of others.