As we discussed in part 1, protective factors help build resilience in youth and teens so they can bounce back when going through adversity. Protective factors are not only important in fighting risky behaviors — they are instrumental in a child’s healthy development and life-skill building.
A strong and healthy bond with parents is one of the most important protective factors. Through healthy relationships and positive role modeling, parents can help their children build self-confidence and social competence. A young person with a positive strong image and strong self-control is much less likely to fall to peer pressure and experiment with drugs and alcohol.
As parents, we often fall into the trap of telling our kids what to do, rather than truly listening to them and having a two-way conversation. But if kids are feeling they’re just getting another lecture and you’re not engaging them in a discussion — like you would an adult — are they really getting the message?
To make matters worse we, adults, often tend to wait for a problem to rear its head before we dive into a serious topic. That means we’re consistently reacting rather than trying to prevent certain behaviors.
Engaging youth consistently on important topics gives you as the parent the ability to have a positive conversation. These preventative conversations can help your children make the right choices when they’re faced with decisions in the “real world.”
Here are some ways to build relationships with youth and young adults:
Spend meaningful time together: Spending time with your kids doesn’t have to be an elaborate affair. Sure, camping trips or movie nights out are fun, but something simple like spending an hour in the kitchen making cookies can be just a meaningful in helping you grow closer.
The best thing you can do is bond around your child’s interests. You may not love video games or understand what’s happening in that fantasy board game, but give it a try anyway. Then, watch your child’s face light up.
Showing an ongoing interest in your child’s hobbies and passions is one of the best gifts you can give them.
Recognize their role in the family: Too often, children feel like their opinions don’t matter. Recognize their unique position in your family and the role they play, and engage them in making decisions that impact them.
Give them increasing responsibilities: When youth are asked to contribute at their skill level, they are feeling worthy. By giving them responsibilities that grow as they do, you’re communicating to them that they are capable members of the family, and it also helps them become autonomous.
Encourage their pursuits: Help your children discover their talents. They need opportunities to show their strengths and do things they’re good at. But also make sure to encourage them to explore new things and stretch themselves — that’s a critical part of development and learning new skills.
Help them grow a sense of purpose: The future is an abstract concept for youth, which is why they have a disconnect between their behavior happening now and the consequences that will come in the future. You can help them establish a sense of purpose and hopeful future by setting expectations, motivating them to be successful, talking to them about their aspirations, creating anticipation for a compelling future, and so forth.
Show them your affection: Various studies have found that having a close relationship with at least one parent strongly influenced behaviors in adulthood — and having a warm or affectionate parent contributed to social success later in life.
If you’d like to learn more about skills and experiences that can help your child become more resilient, one research-based framework resource that’s used widely by educators is called “40 Developmental Assets.” Learn more here.