Authored by: Chris Bereshnyi, Family Therapist at Salt Lake County Youth Services
As April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month, I would like to talk about some factors that strengthen families, and thus reduce the risks of child abuse. Of course, spending time together as a family is a protective factor. However, closeness is established early during early development. This is known as Nurturing and Attachment, where it is important for babies to receive consistent affection and nurturing. This helps the baby grow up to be a healthy and happy teen.
Another protective factor is Parental Resilience. Parental Resilience is a parent’s ability to cope with stress and crises. We are all unique, and everyone handles stress differently. However, issues such as substance abuse, marital problems and mental illness can negatively impact a parent’s ability to raise their child. Stress is a part of everyday life and can’t be avoided, but there is help out there for parents.
A third protective factor is Social Connections, which is a network of friends and family that a parent can rely on to help out in a crisis, or with day to day needs. Social Connections can help strengthen Parental Resilience, as there may be times when a parent can’t do everything on their own.
A fourth protective factor is Knowledge of Parenting and Child Development. When a person becomes a parent, they typically fall back on what they learned from their parents or family members. However, being aware of developmental milestones can help a parent put a child’s behavior into context. This understanding can lead to more effective parenting, thus reducing physical punishment.
I mentioned that there are resources out there for families, such as the ones offered at Salt Lake County Youth Services. There are other resources as well, such as the Utah Parent Center (801-272-1051), Help Me Grow (801-691-5322), Family Promise (801-961-8622) and the Utah Department of Health’s Home Visiting program (801-273-2884).