Health Watch/Taryn Mack, Institute director

The Strengthening Families Approach was developed by the Center for the Study of Social Policy. Its foundation is Five Protective Factors: parental resilience, social connections, concrete support in times of need, knowledge of parenting and child development, and social and emotional competence of children. Research shows these factors build family strengths and an environment that promotes optimum child and youth development.

Parental stress cannot be eliminated, but parent resiliency does change how parents deal with stress. Resiliency is how someone manages and bounces back from challenges that all families have. This means problem-solving, building and supporting relationships with your family and others, and asking for help when you need it.

Connection with family members, friends, neighbors and community members provides emotional support to solve problems, offers parenting advice and provides assistance to parents. Parents need networks of support to act as a sounding board as they make decisions. It also provides an opportunity for giving back. This provides self-esteem to families and benefits the community.

Meeting the basic needs for shelter, clothing, food and health care is vital for families to not just survive, but thrive. When a family does encounter a crisis it is important that they have access to adequate services and supports to provide stability, treatment and help for family members to get through this time of crisis.

Parents need to have access to accurate information about child development and suitable expectations for children’s behavior. This information helps parents see their children in a positive way and encourages healthy development. Parents can get this from many sources, including the Internet, local library, parenting education classes, family members and their pediatrician or physician.

Children have a more positive relationship with their parents, other adults and peers if they learn to connect positively with others, control their behaviors and successfully communicate their feelings. Families are under extra stress if their children exhibit challenging behaviors or developmental delays. Parents and children can divert these negative results and keep development on track with early identification and assistance.

The five protective factors in the Strengthening Families Approach are for all families. It builds on family strengths to nurture children to become caring and contributing members of society. These are things we can all do to strengthen and support the families in our community during Parenting Awareness Month.

March is Parenting Awareness Month. Parenting Awareness Month (PAM) is a Michigan initiative to promote awareness, education and resources – through state outreach and local efforts – emphasizing the importance of effective parenting in nurturing children to become healthy, caring and contributing citizens. Parent Awareness Month began was the idea of one parent, a father. Within a short time PAM evolved into a year round initiative. Parent Awareness Month has been in existence since 1993. Many parenting resources are available on their website:

Editor’s note: Taryn Mack is Institute director at Copper Country Mental Health.