If it’s Raining Stress – Reach for an Umbrella!
Let’s be real, parenting isn’t easy! And living on Maui through a pandemic made it harder for many. The latest data show famlies are struggling to stay housed, pay for essentials, and help keiki catch up after prolonged school closures. The stress of everyday living can feel overwhelming.
But it’s not hopeless! We can’t stop the rain but we can reach for an umbrella! Parents and their supporters can intentionally build “protective factors” – strengths and resources to draw on during difficult times to shield them from life’s stresses. The five protective factors are: 1. knowledge of parenting and child development,2. parental resilience, 3. social connections, 4. concrete supports in times of need, and 5. social and emotional competence in children. When adults have the knowledge tools, and resources they need, keiki’s well-being increases and the risk of maltreatment is reduced. But, what does this mean in practical terms? Protective factors help caregivers gain skills find and receive help, and develop coping strategies.
1. Understanding How Children Grow and Develop
Children don’t come with an instructional manual. For better or worse, people’s parenting usually reflects how they were treated as children. Learning about the latest in brain science and attachment theory can help caregivers decide which practices to continue and what to do differently. Knowing what to expect as keiki grow older also helps create realistic expectations and avoid frustrations.
2. Learning Healthy Ways to Handle Stress
Resiliency is the ability to “bounce back” after difficulties. There are many ways to cultivate inner strength and flexibility, for example, takung tume un nature to recharge, meditation, physical activity, breathwork, spiritual practices, or talking with a trusted friend
or counselor. Even a solo trip to the grocery store can offer re- spite and a chance to pause.
3. Connecting with Friends and Community
The pandemic increase isolation for many of us. Feeling alone can contribute to depression and intensify stress. Growing our social network is one antidote that can bring balance, new perspectives, and fun into life. Take inventory of your relationships – are they mutually supportive, caring and respectful? Are other parents included? Who would drop everything to help you in a crisis? Invest time to maintain the healthy relationships you have and step outside your comfort zone to cultivate new connections. Parent education classes are one place to both meet new people and learn skills.
4. Access to Community Resources – Hoʻoikaika Navigator
Everyone needs help sometimes. There’s no shame in asking for or receiving help. One place to start is AUW 2-1-1, Aloha United Way’s free, confidential helpline. Dial 211, text, live chat, or use their online, searchable database. Alternatively, contact Hoʻoikaika Navigator below. Remember, asking for help is sign of strength, not of weakness.
5. Helping children get along with others:
Social-emotional skills like communicating clearly, active listening, cooperating, goal setting, and empathy can help your keiki have stronger friendships, deal with challenges, and do better in school. When children can understand and express their feelings, they can manage their emotions and self-regulate more easily. Anticipating when your child might get upset and helping them prepare can help teach these skills. Another way is to “catch them” doing something well and encourage more of that behavior. Your children will mirror your actions so it’s important to show how you cope with strong feelings appropriately.
When the inevitable melt down occurs, it’s not the end of the world. Talk about it openly, admit mistakes, and make repairs.
Together, these protective factors result in strong ohana that support the healthy development of keiki, enhance a family’s capacity to succeed, and prevent child maltreatment. Take shelter from the rain of stress – assess where your family might benefit from some extra support and reach out for help.
Deb Maris is the founder of Converge Consultina, Research and Training and serves as the Coordinator for the Ho’oikaika Partnership, a coalition of more than 60 agencies and individuals working together to strengthen families and prevent child abuse in Maui County.
Reprinted from Maui Mama Magazine
PAGE 21, VOLUME 11, ISSUE 4. SUMMER 2022