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Strengthening Families and The 5 Protective Factors Series: Social & Emotional Competence of Children

Posted by Christopher A. Brown

During the past four weeks, I have blogged about a collaboration between National Fatherhood Initiative® and the Center for the Study of Social Policy (CSSP) to create a brief that raises awareness among states and others that use the Strengthening Families™ approach to increase family strengths, enhance child development, and reduce the likelihood of child abuse and neglect.

The approach is based on engaging families, programs, and communities in building five protective factors:

  • Parental resilience
  • Social connections
  • Knowledge of parenting and child development
  • Concrete support in times of need
  • Social and emotional competence of children

Strengthening Families and The 5 Protective Factors Series Social & Emotional Competence of Children copy.jpg

This is the final post in a five-part series that highlights each of the factors and how NFI’s resources can help those who use the framework to build the factors in their community through more effective engagement of fathers. (Click here for the post on parental resilience, here for social connections, here for knowledge of parenting and child development, and here for concrete support in times of need.)

Each post includes more detail on each factor than in the brief. 

Social and Emotional Competence of Children

About this factor CSSP says, “The social and emotional development of young children plays a critical role in their cognitive skill building, social competence, mental health, and overall wellbeing. The nature of this development is deeply affected by the quality of a child’s relationships with his or her primary attachment figures, usually parents. Healthy development is threatened when families of young children face multiple problems and stressors.”

Father-specific resources address the unique contribution of fathers to the social and emotional development of children. Fathers serve, for example, as a role model for boys and a relational model for girls. 

CSSP goes on to point out, “Social and emotional development [is] highly dependent on the quality of a young child’s primary relationships…it is increasingly common to encounter infants and young children whose attachment to a primary caregiver has been severely limited, disrupted, or arrested. These children are at risk for serious development problems…”

These facts are not lost on the thousands of practitioners that NFI has trained through the years. They include practitioners in corrections, education, military, workplace, government, and non-profit settings to name a few.

These facts are also not lost on researchers who have studied the negative impact of father absence and concluded that father involvement is critical to child well-being. NFI’s programs and resources combat father absence, pure and simple. In doing so they help children develop social and emotional competence through increased and competent father involvement, thus reducing children’s stressors and the risk of limited, disrupted, or arrested attachments to their primary caregivers that lead to short- and long-term developmental problems.

As a way to further address this factor, NFI has created mother-specific resources that address the relationships between fathers and mothers. The most significant relationship in a child’s life is the relationship between his or her mother and father. This relationship is the blueprint a child follows for developing his or her own relationships. Improving this relationship is critical to prevent disruptions between children and their primary caregivers and to intervene and repair after disruptions. Because mothers are most often the primary caregiver of children—and certainly in cases where the parents are not romantically involved or living together—they need resources that help them better understand the importance of father involvement in the lives of their children and how to effectively co-parent.

NFI’s Mom as Gateway™ booster session was NFI’s first foray into this arena, and it has been extremely well received with several thousand organizations acquiring it. It helps mothers understand “maternal gatekeeping” behavior and, in doing so, become more willing to accept increased father involvement as long as it is safe for them and their children.

Because of the popularity of this booster session, NFI developed Understanding Dad™, a program that helps mothers address maternal gatekeeping behavior in a more comprehensive manner. The program also builds practical communication skills mothers can use to improve the relationship they have with the father of their children. 

NFI has also developed resources for mothers in the form of tip cards and “pocketbook” guides for mass distribution by organizations.

Does your work with dads include addressing maternal gatekeeping behavior?

Do you provide moms with resources that help them better understand and communicate with dads? 

Click here to view and download the brief from NFI's Free Resources section.

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