Families, no matter their makeup or description, are of vital importance to our children. Families serve as a gateway to the larger world, and teach children how to interact, behave and relate to others.
It used to be thought that our children could be protected from the dangers in our communities by working to eliminate those risks. If only that were possible! We have learned that it is becoming an increasingly difficult and long-term effort to eliminate the psychological and physical risks of hunger, poverty and violence, a lack of connectedness, limited community resources and the repercussions of stress, depression and other mental health risks.
So what can families do, then, to fulfill their mandate of protecting children so that they may grow into healthy, productive, contributing adults? Families must provide children with personal assets, those skills that in combination with a nurturing environment seem to “inoculate” them against the inherent risks of today’s communities. These assets - such as conflict resolution, resiliency and social skills - will ultimately enable our children to deal with conflict and make wise decisions in the face of peer pressure, to form trusting and longstanding relationships, and to feel a sense of autonomy in the world in which they live.
Families need to be supported in these efforts by strong, positive networks of individuals, comprised of both personal relationships and professional ones. Parents and educators, mental health professionals, school coaches, etc., all need to see their role in being supportive of and influential in the building of strong psychological assets in our children. We need to work together as communities to encourage the positive influences that our families can have.