Protective Factors can help parents at risk of abusing their children find resources, support, and coping strategies to parent effectively even under stress

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These safeguards could save a child’s life

Stress is a normal part of life. In the gospel of Luke, Jesus enters Martha’s house and she busies herself waiting on him while her sister Mary sits idly at Jesus’ feet listening to his teaching. Martha becomes irritated and asks the Lord to command Mary to help her. Jesus replies, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things…”

While stress is normal in an adult’s life and by adulthood we’re expected to have developed ways to offset it, to a child, exposure to prolonged stress or chronic trauma can have life altering effects.

This is especially true for children from birth to six years of age when their brains are still developing.

Examples of trauma are neglect, poverty, physical abuse, substance abuse in the home, parental unemployment or social isolation. However, there are steps we can all take to ensure children are protected and families are well-functioning. They are called Protective Factors, and they serve as safeguards helping parents who might be at risk of abusing their children, instead find resources, support, and coping strategies to parent effectively even under stress.

Five Protective Factors: 1fingerKnowledge of parenting and child development: Parents increase their knowledge and strengthen their social connections when they participate in group activities like the Parent Café’s offered through Catholic Charities of Kansas City-St. Joseph. Increasing parental competency by learning about a child’s changing needs can instill positive techniques for managing behavior.

2fingerParental resilience: Parents who manage stress serve as role models for their children, setting an example of self-regulation and problem-solving. By developing social connections parents can build their resilience over time, connecting with a social network that includes emotional, situational, and informational support needed when life becomes more turbulent.

3fingerSocial and emotional competence of the children: A child’s ability to positively interact with others, to express themselves, and to manage their emotions, can reduce the risk of child abuse. When parents invest time spent around other families, they expose their children to a variety of experiences that can help hone social and emotional competence.

4fingerConcrete support in times of need: When households lack the basics such as food, clothing, housing or transportation, stress levels rise, thus increasing the likelihood of child mistreatment. This is why Children & Family Services exists, to support those parents who don’t have a supportive network to draw on in times of need.

5fingerSocial connections: This could be the most important of the five Protective Factors due to the depth in which it interconnects with the other four. Research has shown that parents with few social connections are at a higher risk for child abuse and neglect. Instead of thinking you don’t have time for friends because you’re busy taking care of your child, convert your thinking to time with friends is taking care of your child.

For more information on our Parent Café’s or building your Protective Factors, call (816) 659-8239.


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