Parenting is hard and does not come with an instruction manual specific to each individual child. We know that caregivers don’t usually want to hurt their child, but the stress of parenting can sometimes result in abuse. Yet certain factors, known as protective factors, can diminish the risks of child abuse and neglect when established in a family.

Parental Resilience

A parent who can bounce back from challenges has a better chance of dealing with stress in a healthy way. This resiliency helps parents be more effective at problem solving, relationship building, and recognizing when they need to ask for help.

Parents can build resilience in adulthood in several ways, including ensuring that their physical and emotional needs are met, building a support system, knowing what to expect as their child develops, and even the body and mind are prepared to handle difficult situations.

Social Connections

Parents need social interaction with other adults—family, friends, neighbors and other caregivers in their community—to build to a social support system. They also need the opportunity to reach out when they need advice, someone to lend an ear, or help. A network of support also allows parents to increase their own self-esteem by helping others and being part of a community.

Parents without friends or family nearby may find it difficult to build relationships with community members and plug in to a network. One way to make a connections is to attend a community fitness class or activities for parents and children at the local library.

Supports in Times of Need

Families must meet their basic needs like food, clothing, housing, and healthcare in order to have a calm family environment. Not being able to make ends meet or provide these basic needs can pile significant stress on a family, so families need to know how to connect with services and supports that can help during a time of crisis.

Parents who are financially unstable can access services that provide temporary relief, like SNAP or child care assistance. In Kentucky, those services are run by the Cabinet for Health and Family Services.

Knowledge of Parenting and Child Development

Accurate information around age specific skill development and common behaviors can help parents see their children in a positive light, encourage skill building, and have reasonable expectations for their child’s development and behaviors. It is also important for parents to know how to discipline their children in an age appropriate and consistent way.

Information on potty training and on the importance of never shaking a baby can help new parents as they deal with the stress of parenting. Parents in Kentucky can gain that education by enrolling in the HANDS program.

Social and Emotional Competence of Children

The ability of children and youth to control their behaviors, communicate their feelings, and interact appropriately with peers improves their interactions with peers and adults. Children who demonstrate challenging behaviors or delayed development benefit from early identification and assistance for both parents and children.

Parents can help children develop socially and emotionally by consistently and positively interacting with their child beginning at birth. Early childhood education programs and quality child care have been shown to improve children’s social and emotional control.

Protective factors can reduce parental stress and improve the parent-child relationship—and could even save a child’s life. If you have a friend, family member, or neighbor who is a parent, or soon will be, share this information and become part of their support network. To learn more about protective factors, visit the National Child Abuse Prevention month website. Want to help end child abuse in Kentucky? Join the Kosair Charities Face It® movement.