A protective factor is a characteristic that makes a parent, child or family more likely to thrive and less likely to experience a negative outcome. It may be helpful to think of protective factors as what will help children and families thrive despite whatever risk factors they might face. Protective factors are not just for families that are at risk for child abuse and neglect. All families benefit from having strong protective factors.
What is Resilience?
Resilience is the ability to bounce back from or push through life’s difficulties. It can be described as determination, toughness, optimism, faith, and hope. Using the Protective Factors to build resilience is how we strengthen families and improve the health and wellness of children.
What does this look like?
• Children have close relationships with caregivers or other caring adults
• Caregivers have resilience to bounce back
• Caregivers use positive parenting skills
• Communities have a sense of purpose (through faith, culture, identity, etc.)
• There are opportunities to connect socially
• Practical support services for parents and families are available
Resilience in Caregivers
Caregivers who can cope with the stresses of everyday life, as well an occasional crisis, have resilience; they have the flexibility and inner strength necessary to bounce back when things are not going well. Multiple life stressors, such as a family history of abuse or neglect, health problems, marital conflict, or domestic or community violence—and financial stressors such as unemployment, poverty, and homelessness—may reduce a parent’s capacity to cope effectively with the typical day-to-day stresses of raising children.
Resilience in Children
Children aren’t necessarily born with resilience, but scientists now believe that certain children have higher levels of resilience. But the good news for all children is that resilience is like a muscle – the more you exercise it, the stronger it grows, especially in very young children.
How do We Grow Resilience? Children learn resilience from external influences such as their family, caregivers and the community around them. Protective Factors and positive childhood experiences help explain why some people who experience adversity as children fare well in adulthood.
Resilience Buffers Adverse Childhood Experience
When caregivers and especially children have supportive relationships, concrete supports, and social and emotional competence, they are better able to cope with adverse experiences they may encounter.
By forming positive relationships, community members can work together to build a resilient, vibrant neighborhood and create opportunities to further integrate the Protective Factors. Safe communities can provide a buffer for children against adverse childhood and community experiences. These children then build resilience! There are many ways Protective Factors are being utilized within Georgia communities.
- American Psychiatric Association– Defining and Cultivating Resilience
- HOPE (Healthy Outcomes from Positive Experiences) – a new way of seeing and talking about experiences that support children’s growth and development into healthy, resilient adults
- Children’s Trust Fund Alliance – Parental Resilience One-Pager
- The Center for the Study of Social Policy Parental Resilience Action Guide
- Mindful- How to Be A Resilient Parent
Social Connections – Positive relationships that provide emotional, informational, instrumental and spiritual support.
Friends, family members, neighbors and community members provide emotional support, help solve problems, offer parenting advice and give concrete assistance to parents. Networks of support are essential to parents and also offer opportunities for people to “give back”, an important part of self- esteem as well as a benefit for the community. Isolated families may need extra help in reaching out to build positive relationships.
During this time of social distancing, or as we prefer to call it, physical distancing, it is more important than ever to maintain your social connections. Whether that means Facetiming your child’s grandparents, participating in a virtual gathering of your friends, calling your neighbors to check-in, or increasing the time spent together with your housemates, we all need to continue supporting each other during this stressful time. Children also need social connections to help manage their anxiety and stress. Set up a Facebook or Facetime playgroup for older children. Go outside for a walk and point out the sights you see with younger children.
Knowledge of Parenting and Child and Youth Development – Parents Know How Children and Youth Grow and Learn
Parents who understand the basics of child development have more realistic expectations of their children. These parents are better equipped to provide an appropriate amount of nurturing, supervision, and guidance. When parents understand their roles in their children’s lives and learn about specific parenting techniques and strategies, they can form positive relationships with their children and have options for appropriate responses to typical child behaviors.
Additionally, parents and children face many challenges during an extended time away from school. During this time, it is critically important for parents to maintain their children’s engagement with learning.
Child Development Resources
- The Center for the Study of Social Policy Knowledge of Child Development Action Guide
- National Association for the Education of Young Children – Tips for Child Development in Practice
- Zero to Three – Resources for Child Development
- Children’s Trust Fund Alliance – Knowledge of Child Development One-Pager
- Better Brains for Babies Georgia
Social and Emotional Competence of Children – Family and child interactions that help children develop the ability to communicate
clearly, recognize and regulate their emotions and establish and maintain relationships. A child’s relationship with a consistent, caring adult in the early years is associated later in life with better academic grades, healthier behaviors, more positive peer interactions and an increased ability to cope with stress. Set the example by using words and having conversations in stressful moments, replace negative communication with neutral, problem solving, and empathetic encouraging ones (YES, this takes practice!)
Empathy is a social-emotional skill and protective factor that develops throughout a child’s life, and an early start can help children be more successful friends, students, and family members.
Resources to build children’s empathy and social-emotional skills:
- Help Your Child Develop Empathy
- Educators Can Foster Empathy
- Kids Who Care About the Common Good
- Social Emotional Skill Building Activity
- Connections Matter Georgia, Training for Adults
Helping Students Have the Conversation About Social Emotional Well-Being
By Cheryl Benefield, GPA Family and Community Engagement Specialist
Promoting the social emotional well-being of children and youth is a primary concern of both educators and families. As we work to develop practices and make programmatic decisions that support positive school climate, it is important to remember that helping students enhance interpersonal relationships is also critical. The infographic, “Seven Super Skills to Help a Friend in Need,” was created for Mental Health First Aid by the National Council for Behavioral Health. Developing expectations that promote internal competencies of this nature can empower students to care for others as well as themselves.
Social and Emotional Resources
- The Center for the Study of Social Policy Social and Emotional Competence Action Guide
- National Association for the Education of Young Children – Social & Emotional Development Resources
- Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL)
- Committee for Children – Social Emotional Learning
Concrete Support in Times of Need – Access to concrete support and services that address a family’s needs and help minimize stress caused by challenges.
The 1-800-CHILDREN (1-800-244-5373) Helpline is a centralized way to access community resources throughout the state. The Helpline is available to caregivers and professionals looking for supportive resources and referrals. We are here to listen, and to help!
Our statewide resources can also be found on our interactive Resource Map. Please visit www.PCAGeorgiaHelpline.org to access over 3,000 statewide resources.
Everyday Actions that Support Families
- Families feel supported when asking for help.
- Respond immediately- provide information and connections
- Help families to develop skills & tools they need to identify their needs & connect to supports.
- Build relationships with families so they share challenges.
Concrete Support Resources
- The Center for the Study of Social Policy Concrete Supports in Times of Need Action Guide
Training for Professionals
SFG Parent Modules
The SFG Parent Modules focus on the 5 Strengthening Families Protective Factors which provide a common framework for collaboration that is intentional, purposeful, and focused on promoting optimal development of young children and strengthening their families.
1. Parental Resilience- Parents Can Bounce Back
2. Social Connections- Parents Have Friends
3. Knowledge of Child Development- Parents Know How Children Grow and Learn
4. Concrete Support in Times of Need- Parents Know Where to Turn for Help
5. Social and Emotional Competence of Children- Children Learn to Talk About and Handle Feelings
Be connected with a Parent Facilitator in your area for a Parent Module training or help hosting a Parent Café by contacting SFG@gsu.edu.
Find Resources for Caregivers
- The Concrete Support in Times of Need Resource List identifies and briefly explains Georgia services in the areas of Housing, Transportation, Food, Child Care, Health Care, Finance and Assets, and Behavioral Health.
- Healthy Relationship and Marriage Education Training (HRMET) offers free tools online helpful in your continued efforts to develop and maintain healthy couple relationships. To access and print out these new tools, visit http://www.nermen.org/HRMET/tools/index.php
- New Texting Service for Parents- Calling all parents of 4 & 5 year-olds! It’s time to sign-up for free tips and resources, via three simple texts per week, to help get your little one ready for kindergarten! Thanks to the Georgia Department of Education and Stanford University, Georgia has it’s very own FREE text service for parents. Just text GAready4K to 313131 to join! It’s FREE!
- The 1-800 CHILDREN Helpline and online resources map supports families and parents and connects them with appropriate resources in their community. (Spanish/English) The Helpline is not a crisis hotline, nor a function of the Department of Family and Children Services (DFCS). The Helpline is a safe place for support and discussing options.
Parents As Advocates
- Parents, Let Your Voice Be Heard! Join Georgia’s parent Advisory Council and work with the Prevention and Community Support Section (PCS) within the Georgia Division of Family and Children Services to help expand meaningful partnerships between parents and staff throughout the system. PCS is committed to promoting the voices of parents throughout its work to strengthen families and engage communities. Apply Now to Let Your Voice be Heard.
- What Parents Say About…… Keeping Families Together and Strong Through Prevention and Early Intervention Strategies. The National Alliance of Children’s Trust and Prevention Funds (Alliance) joined with a group of birth parents to produce this issue brief that includes the perspectives of parents with life experiences
related to the child welfare system and prevention resources.
Child Growth and Development Resources
- The ABC’s of Child Development & The Child Development Tracker www.pbs.org
- Child Developmental Milestones Checklist, Training Videos and Free Children’s Books (Learn the Signs. Act Early.) https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/actearly/
- CDC’s Milestone Tracker app, free and parent-friendly, is designed to track and celebrate your young child’s development from ages 2 months through 5 years, see photos and videos that illustrate milestones, try new activities to support your child’s early development, get helpful reminders for appointments, and more! Get information on downloading the app online. The app is available in the App Store and on Google Play.
- Child Development and Positive Parenting Tips:for each stage of development https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/childdevelopment/positiveparenting/index.html
- National Association for the Education of Young Children website for families www.families.naeyc.org or sign up for their parent newsletter http://www.naeyc.org/content/stay-connected
- American Academy of Pediatrics www.healthychildren.org
- ZERO TO THREE http://www.zerotothree.org/about-us/areas-of-expertise/free-parent-brochures-and-guides/
- Watch Me Thrive http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/ecd/watch-me-thrive/families
- Tip Sheets for Parents and Caregivers from Building Community, Building Hope
- DOE’s Parent Engagement and Transition to Kindergarten for Parents http://www.gadoe.org/School-Improvement/Federal-Programs/Pages/School-Transition.aspx
- Great Start Georgia https://www.greatstartgeorgia.org/
- Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta – Strong4Life http://www.strong4life.com/
- American Academy of Pediatrics: Early Literacy Toolkit http://littoolkit.aap.org/Pages/home.aspx
- Set the example by using words and having conversations in stressful moments, replace negative communication with neutral, problem solving, and empathetic encouraging ones (YES, this takes practice!)20 Phrases to use when your child isn’t listening
SFG Parent Café
The SFG Parent Cafés are conversations among parents about what it takes to keep their families strong. Parent Cafés can take place in early childhood centers or other friendly environments, and they’re a safe place to talk about the “hard stuff.” Trained parents lead the discussion as parent participants explore questions that really matter—about taking care of yourself, raising strong children, and building strong relationships with your children. The Parent Café model is based on the World Café model for engaging people in conversations that matter.
Parent Cafés offer:
1. An approach for engaging parents and families in conversations about themselves and their children
2. A method for building protective factors in families
3. An opportunity for developing parent leadership
The Leadership Team embodies our mission of utilizing the protective factors framework in all programs and services. The Leadership Team is made up of approximately 20 members and provides direction and guidance for embedding the five protective factors in all areas of related work through:
- Policy and systems changes
- Data driven decision-making
- Integration and prioritization
- Resource identification and leverage
- Coordination and collaboration with similar state efforts
The Partnership represents a broad range of over 50 partners who help embed Strengthening Families into their work settings and communities. The Partnership is charged with implementing the Strengthening Families Georgia Strategic Plan. To attend meetings and be actively involved contact Jeanette Meyer, Strengthening Families Georgia Statewide Coordinator at SFG@gsu.edu.
View Partner Spotlights
With continued funding and the expertise and support of a multi-disciplinary Leadership Team and Partnership Strengthening Families Georgia has seen steady growth and expansion beyond early childhood, and includes cross-disciplinary efforts and parent partnerships to produce changes in practices and policies. If you are aware of funding opportunities that would be a good fit for SFG or would like to embed the Protective Factors into your organization please contact SFG@gsu.edu.
Supporters though unable to attend meetings and be actively involved, want to remain informed and updated about Strengthening Families Georgia. To receive updates on Strengthening Families Georgia please send your name and email address to SFG@gsu.edu.
Strengthening Families Georgia Chair
Debbie Hillman, an Early Childhood Consultant with numerous affiliations, has been elected as the Chair of SFG as of October 2019. Debbie has served on the Leadership Team, as well as the Governance and Strategic Planning Committees, and we look forward to working with her in this new role. She can be reached at email@example.com.
Strengthening Families Georgia Coordinator
Jeanette Meyer began working for Strengthening Families Georgia in 2009 and has previously worked for Care Solutions and Prevent Child Abuse Georgia. She can be reached at SFG@gsu.edu