Learn about nurturing and attachment; an important protective factor – Part 1

This protective factor may be one way to say “love and respect.”

There are several ways in which parents can nurture children and provide secure attachment.  Photo credit: FreeImages.com/Anissa Thompson.

There are several ways in which parents can nurture children and provide secure attachment. Photo credit: FreeImages.com/Anissa Thompson.

According to the Child Welfare Information Gateway, “protective factors are conditions or attributes in individuals, families, communities, or the larger society that, when present, mitigate or eliminate risk in families and communities that, when present, increase the health and well-being of children and families.”

Six protective factors have been identified by the United States Department of Health and Human Services. The protective factor this article will explore is “nurturing and attachment;” two words often used to describe the relationship between an adult and child.

The word “nurture” comes from the Latin word “nu tri tura” which means to nurse, to nourish and to promote growth. A definition from Merriam-Webster is “the care and attention given to someone or something that is growing or developing.” In the Nurturing Parenting programs, Dr. Stephen J. Bavolek, principal author recognizes nurturing as a critical life skill that, when present, can provide children with the foundation they need to become caring, respectful and cooperative adults. Nurturing Parenting programs are based on the belief that when we care for and treat children with respect, they will learn to treat themselves, others and their surroundings in a similar fashion. “Attachment” is one principal of nurturing where children have a sense of security, as well as an environment where a caregiver listens and provides unconditional caring.

A child’s early life experiences can affect all aspects of their growth, development and behavior. Their positive experiences pave the way for healthy relationships with peers and adults, strong communication skills, a curiosity to explore new things and an overall positive life experience. Michigan State University Extension recognizes that there are several ways in which parents and caregivers can nurture children and provide secure attachment. Some of those include:

  • Provide for physical needs – Provide safe shelter, food, clothing and essentials. Tend to your child’s routine health needs; well-child visits and dental care. Learn where to go in your community for help for serious health concerns.
  • Learn about child development – Children develop at their own pace but in a fairly predictable sequence. Use local resources and professionals who can advise you of what to expect from your child at each age and stage.
  • Listen – Take time to focus individual attention on your child. Pay close attention to body language and tone of voice. Communication is more than just the words we say. Reflect your child’s feelings using words that tell them that you understand.
  • Encourage – Help your child discover the wonder of the world by providing opportunities to explore new things. Provide a variety of age appropriate toys to encourage their curiosity and exploration. Help your child discover their interests. Remember, they may differ from your own!
  • Foster independence and self-worth – Provide challenges to your children that teach independence. Even a two year old can pick up toys and put them in a designated area. Notice your child’s unique qualities and appreciate them as part of their individuality.
  • Discipline – Recognize that discipline is a method of teaching and guiding your child to make appropriate choices. Be consistent, constructive and fair in your teaching. Say it, mean it, do it and follow through with it!
  • Love unconditionally – You don’t have to “like” everything your child does. Modeling forgiveness will teach your child that we all make mistakes and that there is no problem so big that you can’t solve together.
  • Establish tradition – Teach your child your own family traditions, rituals and celebrations. Make your own new traditions that can provide a sense of belonging to a bigger community that may include family, friends and community.
  • Take care of yourself – Parenting is not easy. It is important for caregivers to take care of their own needs so they will have the energy and enthusiasm they need to care for the children in their lives.
  • Know when to ask for help – No one can raise a child alone. It takes a village to raise a child; extended family, friends, co-workers, neighbors, school and community. Learn where and how to get assistance when you need it.

MSU Extension recommends exploring programs in your community that can assist with ways to strengthen the protective factors for you and your family. Strong families look for, ask for and follow through with finding resources and people who can help to support them and make them even stronger!

For more on information caregiving or family issues that affect you and your family, visit http://www.extension.org or an MSU Extension family expert in your county. For additional articles in the Important Protective Factor series, view Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5 and Part 6.

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