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April is Child Abuse Awareness, Prevention Month; promoting protective factors linked to healthy child development, strong families

April Child Abuse Awareness and Prevention Month (U.S. Air Force graphic by James Rainier)

April Child Abuse Awareness and Prevention Month (U.S. Air Force graphic by James Rainier)

PATRICK AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- According to Pinwheels for Prevention, “Child development is largely influenced by early interactions with parents and caregivers; however, the community also plays a role in healthy child development.

Access to quality healthcare, safe and affordable housing, quality early learning, afterschool programs and enriching education, cultural and spiritual experiences help promote healthy child development and improve every child’s chances to have a healthy, happy childhood.

Research shows certain “protective factors” are crucial for parents to keep their family strong. These qualities serve as safeguards by helping parents find solutions to family and life challenges. These protective factors are:

1. Knowledge of Parenting and Child Develop (Being a great parent is part natural and part learned): There is extensive research linking effective parenting to healthy child development. Children thrive when parents provide affection, respectful communication, consistent rules and expectations, and safe learning opportunities that promote independence. Successful parenting fosters positive psychological adjustment, helps children to succeed in school, encourages curiosity about the world and motivates children to achieve.

2. Nurturing and Attachment (A close bond helps parents understand, respond to, and communicate with their children): A child’s early experience of being nurtured and developing a bond with a caring adult affects all aspects of behavior and development. When parents and children have strong, warm feelings from one another, children develop trust that their parents will provide what they need to thrive, including love, acceptance, positive guidance and protection.

3. Parental Resilience (Being strong and flexible): Parents who can cope with the stress of everyday life, as well as an occasional crisis, have resilience; they have the flexibility and inner strength necessary to bounce back when things are not going well. Multiple stressors such as poor health, marital conflict, domestic or community violence, unemployment, poverty and homelessness may reduce a parent’s capacity to cope effectively with the typical day-to-day stress of raising children.

4. Social Connections (Parents need friends): Parents with a social network of emotionally supportive friends, family members and neighbors often find that it is easier to care for their children and themselves. Most parents need people they can call on at times when they need a sympathetic listener, advice or concrete support. Research has shown that parents who are isolated, with few social connections, are at higher risk for abusive and neglectful behavior.

5. Concrete Support in Times of Need (We all need help sometimes): Partnering with parents to identify and access resources in the community may help prevent the stress that sometimes leads to child maltreatment. Providing concrete support may also help prevent the unintended neglect that sometimes occurs when parents are unable to provide for their children’s basic needs.

6. Social and Emotional Competence of Children (Healthy child development): 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 their children’s needs over time – and are less likely to feel stressed or frustrated – as children learn to verbalize what they need and how parental actions make them feel, rather than “acting out” difficult feelings”.

The following link outlines ways that parents can participate during April, National Child Abuse Prevention Month:

https://www.childwelfare.gov/topics/preventing/preventionmonth/spread-the-word/activity-calendars/

Source: Pinwheels for Prevention. (2018). “Promoting the Protective Factors that are Linked to Healthy Child Development and Strong Families”. Family Advocacy Guide. 1.

For support and/or resources, please reach out to the Patrick Air Force Base Family Advocacy office at 321-494-8171.