When Families Have What They Need

September 24, 2019

By Dianna Robinson

If anyone were to ask my 3-year-old daughter what she enjoys doing, making cupcakes with mommy would fall within her top three list of stated options. Last Tuesday night, after sitting through long meetings, scheduling social media posts, analyzing website data and attending a Parent-Teacher Association meeting, I remembered that I had one final, and very important meeting. A cupcake baking date with my daughter. 

She had been consistently asking for her hair to be braided and to bake cupcakes for longer than two weeks. With my schedule, I committed to the only reasonable activity that I knew I wouldn’t bail on. Cupcakes. As we began to prep for cupcake baking, I realized that we needed three eggs for the recipe. Ironically, we only had three eggs.

As I opened the cupcake box, poured in a couple of the required ingredients and tediously cleaned up the mess along the way, my daughter got a hold of one of the eggs and cracked it on the outside of the bowl, leaving raw egg all over the counter and eggshell inside of our cupcake mix. I almost lost it. Frustrated and unfortunately already overwhelmed, I got upset with her and informed her that mommy would now be in charge of the opening of ingredients. I  provided her with a spoon to be responsible for mixing them together.

Noticeably sad and disappointed, she stirred carefully as I poured. There was a clear shift in the dynamics of our cupcake baking date as an awkward silence came over us. The fun had been sucked from the moment and it was clear that I needed to break the ice. Olive oil was the only missing ingredient and the perfect opportunity to reconnect.

“Cali, how about you try pouring the oil into the cupcake mix?” Her face lit up. She was suddenly excited and inspired again. As she picked up the ½ cup measuring spoon, I leaned in to pour the oil, only to miss her spoon. Before we knew it, oil was everywhere and we looked one another in the eyes as we laughed hysterically. 

We laughed when accidentally spilling the oil, but the cracked egg accident felt like a tragedy. Why was that?

I quickly realized that the egg being cracked incorrectly was not the issue. The fact that I had just enough eggs to complete the recipe left very little room for error. When it came to not having what I needed to be successful, my temper was short, I was impatient and found it more challenging to keep my cool with my daughter. Having 2-3 bottles of cooking oil in the cabinet allowed me to react differently when a little spilled by accident.

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This situation led me to think about families who simply don’t have enough and how the lack of resources impacts parents.

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Families who can meet their own basic needs for food, clothing, housing and transportation—and who know how to access essential services such as child care, health care, and mental health services—are better able to ensure the safety and well-being of their children.

Physical, mental and financial well-being are inextricably linked. Parents may not be as frustrated by simple mishaps when they are financially stable. Stress levels are at a minimum when families have a reliable support system that may include a neighbor who will allow them to borrow that extra egg or to watch their children from time to time. 

Extreme frustrations can come into play when food, quality child care options and a network of trusted people to ask for help are limited or non-existent. One of the most effective ways to prevent child abuse is to strengthen families by strengthening the protective factors in your community.

What are the protective factors?

1. Parental Resilience, or the ability of parents to deal effectively with stress, adversity or trauma.

2. Social Connections, such as relationships with family, friends, neighbors or other community members.

3. Concrete Support in times of need, which gives a family the support and resources they need during times of struggle and stress.

4. Knowledge of Parenting and Child Development, because children don’t come with instruction manuals!

5. Social and Emotional Competence of Children, also known as social and emotional learning, which helps children properly label and understand different emotions in themselves and others. Actively promoting social-emotional competence includes activities such as: 

  • Creating an environment in which children feel safe to express their emotions. Being emotionally responsive to children and modeling empathy
  • Being emotionally responsive to children and modeling empathy
  • Setting clear expectations and limits (e.g., “People in our family don’t hurt each other.”)
  • Separating emotions from actions (e.g., “It’s okay to be angry, but we don’t hit someone when we are angry.”)
  • Encouraging and reinforcing social skills such as greeting others and taking turns
  • Creating opportunities for children to solve problems (e.g., “What do you think you should do if another child calls you a bad name?”)

Encouraging individuals to have a deeper understanding of the protective factors and how they help to reduce the risk of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) like child abuse and neglect can help to improve the overall well-being of children and families across various communities.

How can you help your community to have a deeper understanding of the protective factors?

1. Start on your block. Is there a family with children that you can arrange alternating date night swaps with? Many couples become overwhelmed and would appreciate much-needed quality time while leaving their children with someone who they trust and maybe you would appreciate the same. Be sure that you are aware of the warning signs that could indicate your child would not be safe with a potential caregiver.

2. Let your neighbors know that they can count on you. Break the ice and start a conversation with your neighbor. Inform them that they can check with you when in need of an extra egg, sugar or any other miscellaneous household items. It helps to know who you can ask for help and the offer can help to establish a reciprocated sharing system during times of need.

3. Start a book club for parents on your block and feature books that discuss the social and emotional competence of children. This will allow yourself and other neighbors to be more informed. The group can easily become a safe space for parents to hold honest conversations and open up about how they could use some help. Most importantly, holding the meetings conveniently at a home or patio on your block can help to build social connections and minimize transportation issues as the meetings are held conveniently located near their homes.

4. Share known resources on neighborhood apps such as Nextdoor or Frontporch Forum, you never know who may be in need.
 

Simply put, strengthening families is about ensuring that families have what they need and when they need it. When we do so, we are helping to prevent child abuse and/or neglect.


 

We all play a role in preventing child abuse and neglect.

If you see signs of child abuse or neglect, report immediately to 1-844-CO-4-KIDS.


 

 

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Colorado Child Abuse and Neglect Hotline
Available 24 hours a day, every day. Don't hesitate to call and get help. 
Anyone witnessing a child in a life-threatening situation should call 911 immediately.