Encouraging Resilience: The most challenging job

Ballard Community Services employs a framework of 5 Protective Factors to prevent child abuse and encourage healthy families.

The factors are:

Enhancing Parental Resilience
Strengthening Social Connections
Providing Concrete Support in Times of Need
Increasing Knowledge of Parenting and Child Development
Supporting Healthy Social and Emotional Development in Young Children

Enhancing Parental Resilience can be the trickiest factor for a practitioner. We all know somewhat intuitively what that resilience looks like, but what can we do to foster it? A good pep talk is not really going to do much for long term resilience, especially in situations where stress is high or even toxic. So what does resilience look like and how can we develop it in ourselves and encourage it in others?

Managing stress and functioning even in the face of adversity are not skills that can be taught in a workshop. There is no magic bullet for supporting parents who begin to feel overwhelmed. But as a community, we can do some very meaningful work in this direction.

First, we can focus on strengths. Parents who are facing challenges often feel judged, humiliated, and even concerned that they might lose their children. These fears often result in parents retreating, hiding problems, or refusing to ask for help. As a community, a paradigm shift is in order. Can we begin to look at strengths instead of obstacles? Can we notice that a neighbor is struggling and try to remind her of her gifts instead of her perceived failures? Reminding parents that they have strengths is the first step to building resilience. "It is clear that you love your child very much and prioritize him," works so much better than "Why are you not at work today?"

Encouraging routines is also key in fostering resilience. When chaos is around the corner, the comfort of a routine is sometimes the only stabilizing factor. Encouraging parents to stick to school schedules, meal times, bedtimes, and other daily rituals even when challenges are building will help them find ways to get through each day without losing control of their emotions and fears.

Lastly, a firm understanding of community resources is key to stabilizing crisis. If a parent can imagine where help might be instead of feeling panicked, isolated, or confused about next steps, he or she is more likely to remain in safe space through a challenging time. For the community, it is important that we look at where gaps might exist or what services should be changed or enhanced. Considering how we share resources and helping families know how to reach out to one another or to the community are vital pieces of the puzzle.

We all know, whether we are parents or not, that raising young children is extremely difficult even in the best of situations. Even when we have strong extended families, financial resources, and time, we grow weary, stressed, and frightened. Without even one of those factors, the burden becomes exponentially more heavy. Simply asking a parent what he or she needs can be the difference between a resilient and proactive parent and one who can't maintain a safe and healthy outlook.

Ballard Community Services provides home visitation to all of our childcare families at no cost to them. We hope that this one-on-one time to ask questions, connect with another adult, and learn about resources can make a difference for families who face constant stressors. We encourage the community to be vigilant, reach out to friends and neighbors, and focus on strengths.

This is where we, as a community, show our "grit" and we encourage it in others as well.

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