Experts have identified several protective factors that support families and improve child well-being. Protective factors are conditions of individuals, families, communities, or society at large that reduce or eliminate risk and promote healthy development. Protective factors also can serve as buffers, helping parents, who might otherwise be at risk, find resources, support, and coping strategies that allow them to parent more effectively, even under stress.
One protective factor is strong communities. Communities have a huge impact on the lives of children and families. Just as plants thrive best in gardens with quality soil, plenty of sunlight, and fresh water, families thrive best in strong communities.
What does a strong community look like?
Strong, nurturing communities have:
- Clean air and water.
- Safe, affordable housing for families at all income levels.
- Educational programs that are accessible and welcoming.
- Parks and recreation facilities that are inviting, safe, and accessible.
- Resources for helping families in need secure food, jobs, medical care, etc.
So what can you do to build up your community?
The good news is that there are steps you can take to contribute to making your community more supportive.
- Meet your neighbors, get to know them, and talk often about your community resources.
- Set up a playgroup in your community, either taking turns at different homes in your neighborhood or meeting at a local park (consider including those without kids at home, such as local seniors).
- Participate in activities at the local library or community center. Get to know the people in your community.
- Support local community events, like farmers’ markets and street festivals.
- Volunteer at your child’s school.
- Organize a neighborhood meeting and talk about ways to make positive changes. Invite people who know how local government works and develop a strategy to set those changes in motion.
- Attend local government meetings (e.g., city council, school board) to speak about the needs of your community. Stand up for better parks, updated recreation facilities, strong schools, and accessible services.
- Run for office in the parent/teacher association at your child’s school or run for local office.
- Join or create a group where parents and kids meet regularly to go on a hike, play frisbee golf, a team sport, or serve together.
Remember: Everyone wins when we all pitch in to make our communities stronger and more supportive of families!
(Adapted from: https://www.childwelfare.gov/pubPDFs/prevention_ch5.pdf)