April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month, a time to recognize the importance of families and communities working together to prevent child abuse and neglect. This month, we’re highlighting the Strengthening Families framework, which presents five protective factors for building healthy and strong families. In a series of blogs, we’ll be looking at each factor and sharing tips and inspiration for how to put these factors into practice.
The third protective factor is knowledge of parenting and child development, which Strengthening Families describes as “understanding child development and parenting strategies that support physical, cognitive, language, social, and emotional development.” It’s all about understanding developmental milestones, knowing what to expect and when to expect it from your children so you can create healthy environments for them to grow up in.
This factor is important for preventing child abuse because parents are better informed on how to appropriately respond to children’s needs. It means they’ll have informed expectations for their child’s growth and development and recognize when professional support may be necessary. Parenting techniques such as communicating with respect, setting consistent expectations and rules, and creating safe opportunities allow children to thrive in their environment rather than feeling the need to be in survival mode.
Education is the key to building this factor. Parents and caregivers can utilize community resources (like VOA Alaska!) for more education on positive parenting and child developmental milestones. But it all starts at home by encouraging open conversations within your family. Show love daily and foster autonomy and independence so every member of your family is comfortable sharing and comfortable learning.
Here at VOA Alaska, our Kinship Family team are trained on the Parents as Teachers curriculum, which allows us to focus on increasing the knowledge of parenting and child development with the families we serve. Through home visits and ongoing assessments, we share research-based information and use evidence-based practices to identify and build on family strengths.
We also collaborate with community resources to provide monthly educational workshops, such as Help Me Grow, a statewide agency that promotes healthy child development. During one workshop, caregivers were provided information and access to developmental screening tools, including the Ages and Stages Questionnaire. The staff from Help Me Grow modeled the questionnaire and answered questions. Caregivers then completed the questions with their youth at home to assess milestones and developmental skills, providing the family with a look into how to create a healthier and more supportive environment.
Preventing child abuse is everyone’s responsibility. We all have a role to play in protecting the children of our community and supporting resources that help build up healthy and strong families. Check out the other blogs in the series below or learn more about our range of behavioral health and support services to see how VOA Alaska can support you and your family.