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The Prescott Daily Courier | Prescott, Arizona

home : features : vitality April 16, 2014


4/7/2012 10:00:00 PM
Education on parenting, nurturing decreases abuse
West Yavapai Guidance Clinic


It would be wonderful not to need a month dedicated to child abuse prevention; however, our country is not there yet. Child abuse and neglect are preventable, but each year in the United States, close to 1 million children are confirmed victims of child maltreatment (Economic Impact Study, 2007, via Prevent Child Abuse America). The costs of responding to the impact of child abuse and neglect are borne by the victims and their families but also by society. Based on data drawn from a variety of sources, the estimated annual cost of child abuse and neglect was $103.8 billion in 2007 value.

What can we as parents, or adults without children, do to help promote the social and emotional well being of families? According to www.childwelfare.gov, "protective factors" are conditions in families and communities that, when present, increase the health and well-being of children and families. They are attributes that serve as buffers, helping parents who might otherwise be at risk of abusing their children to find resources, supports, or coping strategies that allow them to parent effectively, even under stress. Research has shown that the following six protective factors are linked to a lower incidence of child abuse and neglect:

1. Nurturing and attachment: 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 for one another, children develop trust that their parents will provide what they need to thrive, including love, acceptance, positive guidance and protection.

2. Knowledge of parenting and child development: Discipline is both more effective and more nurturing when parents know how to set and enforce limits and encourage appropriate behaviors based on the child's age and level of development. Child abuse and neglect are often associated with a lack of understanding of basic child development or an inability to put that knowledge into action.

3. Parental resilience: Resilience is the ability to handle everyday stressors and recover from occasional crises. Parents who are emotionally resilient have a positive attitude, creatively solve problems, effectively address challenges, and are less likely to direct anger and frustration at their children.

4. Social connections: Trusted and caring family and friends provide emotional support to parents by offering encouragement and assistance in facing the daily challenges of raising a family. Supportive adults in the family and the community can model alternative parenting styles and can serve as resources for parents when they need help.

5. Concrete supports for parents: Many factors beyond the parent-child relationship affect a family's ability to care for their children. Parents need basic resources such as food, clothing, housing, transportation, and access to essential services that address family-specific needs (such as child care and health care) to ensure the health and well-being of their children. Some families may also need support connecting to social services such as alcohol and drug treatment, domestic violence counseling, or public benefits.

6. Social and emotional competence of children: Just like learning to walk, talk, or read, children must also learn to identify and express emotions effectively. When a child has the right tools for healthy emotional expression, parents are better able to respond to his or her needs.

If we can cultivate these protective factors among families in our lives, we may help reduce the incidence of child maltreatment. How might you be able to help a new parent develop these protective factors?

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