Protective Factor #1: How parents can build nurturing and attachment

Saying that parenting is a tough job is an understatement. After all, “jobs”
are supposed to end when you clock out. And you know perfectly well
that being a parent is a round-the-clock proposition, where even the best
parents make mistakes and are sometimes unsure that they’re doing the
right thing.

The truth is raising people to be the best that they can be should be hard
work. It’s the most important job to be done in Nebraska communities, and
as a parent, you’re in the thick of it. There’s plenty that your community can
do to support you to be the parent you want to be. Better still, there’s plenty
that you can do to support yourself.

Protective Factors are attributes in people and families that increase health
and well-being. All families have Protective Factors.

You’ve probably heard of “risk factors.” Protective Factors act as a buffer
against risk factors and are even more important in the probability of
positive outcomes.

If you look at any strong, healthy family, you will see the Protective Factors.
When things are going well we are building the Protective Factors without
thinking about it. But like many worthwhile things in life, living all of the
Protective Factors takes practice. Basically, this means discovering the best
ways to take care of yourself, be a strong parent and build healthy family

Think of the Protective Factors as layers of insulation between your family
and the stress of the world. The more layers you have, the better the buffer
for you and your kids. Each of the Protective Factors has been proven to
support positive parenting—meaning happier kids and parents.

Nurturing and attachment means developing a pattern of positive
interactions with your kids over time. Juggling the demands of work, home
and other responsibilities leaves many parents feeling like they do not have
nearly enough time with their children. But even small acts of kindness,
protection and caring—a hugs, a smile or loving words—make a big
difference to children.

What nurturing and attachment look like:

  • Recognizing that your child’s feelings and dignity matter
  • Knowing that even when children are small, they have their own
    personalities, needs and ways of looking at things and need your
    understanding and respect
  • Knowing what you have in common with each of your children and
    knowing how each of your children are different from you and from each
  • Listening ‘on purpose’ instead of only talking to your child or giving
  • Lightening up and enjoying life and knowing what makes your child

Tips for nurturing and attachment:

  • Spend time with each child and as a family whenever you can. Find
    activities you enjoy doing together.
  • Commit to responding, instead of just reacting, to challenges from your
    child. Exercising the self-discipline and self-control we want our children
    to have begins with our own behavior. It requires practice!
  • Why? How? What? Then allow space for your child to find his/her ownanswers.
  • Think about your best memories of family time and recreate those with
    your children or create new memories in time spent together.

Here are some different ways to bond with your child through different stages:

Bonding with babies (Birth to 12 months)

Even when your child is too young to understand you, talk to him. Make eye contact, smile and make exaggerated faces as you converse. He’ll soon start to return the conversation with coos and happy shrieks. Hold your baby as often as you can. Rock her to sleep and cuddle during the daytime.

Toddler time (1-3 years)
Between 1 and 3 years, toddlers want your attention more than anything.
Give it to them! Reward their good behaviors—playing quietly, sharing
with a sibling, being gentle with a pet, eating their food—with praise and
attention. This will give your toddler the attention they crave and strengthen
the bond between you.

Your toddler will start moving farther and farther away from you as she
explores her world. When she comes back, reward her with your attention
and let her know that she’s safe and that you’re proud of her for exploring.
Holding and snuggling are still great ways to bond at this age.

Preschool play (3-4 years)
Connect with your more independent 3 and 4-year olds by playing with
them. Hide and seek, tag and backyard races are great for active games. For
quieter moments, play pretend with dinosaurs and dolls, build a blanket fort
or create something with blocks.

Your preschooler loves snuggling, leaning against you and hearing a story—
sometimes the same one over and over!

Because you’re such a great playmate, your preschooler will test the
boundaries and make sure you’re still in charge. When your child challenges
you, and you hold firm to your boundaries, you reinforce the fact that he is
safe and protected with you. It strengthens the bond!
School-age exploration (5-6 years)
Your child is starting kindergarten, getting involved in sports and activities,
and becoming more involved in life outside your home at this age. She’ll be
discovering new things and wanting to tell you about them.

Encourage her to talk about what she’s learning in school with very specific
questions. Instead of “How was school?” ask “What did you work on at your
math station?” or “Tell me about this art project that was in your bag?”
Giving your child a concrete question will elicit better answers.

Listen when your child is talking, and you’ll learn about some of the things
that really interest him. Aside from just helping with homework, enjoy time
doing the things that interest your child. He’ll know that you’re important to
him, and you’ll get the joy of watching his face light up because he’s doing
something he really likes.

Nebraska Children's mission is to maximize the potential of Nebraska’s children, youth, and families through collaboration and community-centered impact.

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Posted in Cradle to career

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