Parenting is a difficult job any time of year. During the holiday season—despite all the warm fuzzies we’re feeling—it can be even more so. We’ve started turning on the heat in the house, our children need new coats, and we’re in pursuit of that special holiday gift.
Add in all the holiday festivities (which means a lot of extra: time pressure and remembering items for potlucks, school events, and more), and many parents are walking around frazzled and exhausted, the chorus of “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” running through their heads on repeat.
Normalizing that parenting is stressful, and helping reduce that stress, are the first key steps to supporting parents in our community. The good news: anyone can do this, in everyday ways! And what better time than the holiday season to contribute to making our society a better place?
The vast majority of parents take the job of parenting seriously. Their love for their children and their determination to succeed are superpowers we can build on. At the same time, parents need permission to say they’re not okay, without feeling judged or putting themselves at risk of unnecessary exposure to child protective systems.
We’ve mentioned The Strengthening Families™ Protective Factors Framework, which identifies five characteristics essential for thriving families: parental resilience, social connections, knowledge of parenting and child development, concrete support in times of need, and social and emotional competence of children.
Applying a protective factors lens empowers us to make small but significant changes to support parents. What can you do to nurture those protective factors for the parents in this community?
We’ll share a few ideas here from our Lean On Me AZ Community Toolkit; stay tuned for more in future columns.
- Remember the acronym LEAN: Listening. Empathy. Affirmation. Non-judgment.
- Check your bias. Our communities are full of loving families across the full range of cultural, race, and income classifications. Check your biases and perceptions so you can meet families where they are and appreciate who they are.
- Know your neighbors. Reaching out to know each other is protective to the whole community. Build relationships with those around you.
- Listen more; talk less. You change a person’s life by learning their story. Listen actively and hear them out before offering advice. Sometimes the simple act of sharing a story can decrease stress tremendously.
- Normalize stress. Every parent experiences it! It’s not a sign of weakness or failure. Look for signs of stress in parents and do what you can to relieve it. Acts of kindness and caring de-escalate stressful situations.
- Treasure children. Be kind whenever you’re in the presence of a child. Strike up positive conversations with children. Make them feel like they’re part of the community. Acknowledge their strengths, effort, and feelings. Help build their social skills by modeling humility, character, courtesy, and kindness.
- Be the village. Connect with the people around you. Create or show up at community events. Ask about the children and the parents. Really listen.
Each of us has the opportunity to strengthen families—and our community—in everyday life. Multiplying small acts of supporting parents and caregivers can create significant change, during the holiday season and all year long.
Editor’s Note: look for the Strong Families, Happy Kids column in every issue of Prescott Woman Magazine. It’s designed to support parents with actionable tips and strategies they can use to create optimal environments for their children to thrive. To learn more about Prevent Child Abuse Arizona’s mission and resources visit www.pcaaz.org