Fostering protective factors in families
What are protective factors in families?
In this video (4 mins) Professor Margaret Sims explains what protective factors in families are and what they might look like.
Protective factors can help buffer individuals and families when they are exposed to risk factors. Professor Sims (2002) lists these as:
an individual’s temperament, feelings of competence, self–efficacy, self-esteem, intelligence, wellbeing
microsystem elements (from Bronfenbrenner's socio-ecological model) include positive relationships, effective parenting, being part of a strong family (see characteristics below), access to quality Early Childhood services and schooling
exosystem elements (as above), including social capital, safe communities, economic security, physical resources
mesosystem elements (as above), including links to school and EC services, family-friendly workplaces
macrosystem elements include socially responsible governments with family-friendly policies and a priority to fund and resource communities effectively.
The Bronfenbrenner (1986) socio-ecological model diagram will help you understand the levels discussed above.
All families have strengths and protective factors
It is important to remember that all families, even those disadvantaged, have strengths and protective factors. In this video (3 mins), Professor Margaret Sims warns about the effects on families when labelled inadequate.
Families may need support to establish contacts and services in their new location. In this video (2.5 mins), Dr Amy Johnson discusses how social media support groups can be helpful for parents to establish these.
Helping Children Cope with Change
Temperament makes a big difference in how children cope with change. Revise the inner circle of Bronfenbrenner's socio-ecological model to see how an individual's temperament affects the child and those in the chronosystem. Siblings who are going through the same changes can react very differently. Respect the differences and make sure parents know those differences are typical. Give examples to children and parents of changes where you felt sad, lonely, angry, and others where you kept quiet because you were still thinking. These are all valid responses and need to be acknowledged and respected.
Keep relocations as part of the conversation in your service. Remember that friendships with families and your service move beyond location. Technology can help you stay in touch and foster learning and connections. It is also reassuring for other children to know that their friends are okay and that they, too, will be okay when they move.
Sims, M. (2002). Aims of family support programs. Designing family support programs: Building children, family and community resilience. Altona, Australia: Common Ground.
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