(Editor's note: Marsha Croasmun, coordinator of the Family Resource Center/Starting Points Center at the Wetzel County Center for Children and Families, is providing columns to recognize April as Child Abuse Prevention Month. She noted that her office represents and services both Wetzel and Tyler counties for Parents as Teachers.)
There are five protective factors that are linked to the prevention of child abuse and neglect. These protective factors are conditions in families and communities that increase the health and well-being of our children and families. These factors also serve as buffers against child maltreatment. With these factors in place, they create communities that care for children, enhance the lives of children and their families, improve our common future, and make our families and communities stronger.
Factor one: Parental Resilience-Building flexibility and inner strength by surrounding yourself with people that make you feel confident; be healthy; share your feeling with someone you trust; plan ahead and adapt to change; take time for yourself. Our lives are not defined by our experiences, but how we respond and grow from those experiences. Resilient parents need to keep a positive attitude, solve problems creatively, and take life in stride.
Factor two: Social Connections-Get out and build relationships; join a group; stay in touch with family and friends; be a volunteer; participate in community events. Having a social network of family and friends that support us emotionally, make it easier to care for our children and ourselves.
Factor three: Knowledge of Parenting and Child Development-Children go through many stages of development. Make yourself knowledgeable about development, set realistic expectations of your child, and build a positive relationship with your child. Talk to your child's doctor; discuss your child's development with their teacher; search online for answers; attend parent education events. Being a great parent is part natural and part learned. Parent education makes your family stronger.
Factor four: Concrete Support in Times of Need-Identify your needs verses your wants; explore available resources in your community; ask about housing and utility assistance; visit resale shops; seek and ask for help. Families can dial 2-1-1 to find resources and help in our area. All families at some point need help. Families that know where to find help can handle life's challenges and be successful.
Factor five: Social and Emotional Competence of Children-Provide opportunities for your child to socialize; identify and discuss feelings; help your child solve problems; read a book about emotions; empathize with your child; allow your child to express their emotions. A parent who helps their child communicate and interact builds an emotionally strong child. In turn, that strong child is able to establish strong lifelong relationships.
Research shows that children are shaped by the people, experiences, and environment in which they live. By helping each other out and implementing these five factors, we can create strong communities and even stronger families. Being flexible, building a great support system, educating yourself, asking for help, and teaching your child to communicate will lead to healthier, happier communities and families.
For more information on protective factors and community support, go to www.preventchildabusewv. org or call Regina Reynolds at the Wetzel County Center for Children and Families at 304-455-2468.