The Science of Parenting

Risk and Protective Factors | S.6 Ep.2

July 22, 2021 Season 6 Episode 2
The Science of Parenting
Risk and Protective Factors | S.6 Ep.2
Show Notes Transcript

Research says that certain characteristics can help kids and parents be more resilient. Learn what those qualities are and how you can help your whole family get through tough times!

Send us an email: parenting@iastate.edu.
Find us on Facebook or Twitter: @scienceofparent.

This institution is an equal opportunity provider. For the full non-discrimination statement or accommodation inquiries, go to www.extension.iastate.edu/diversity/ext

Mackenzie Johnson:

Hey, welcome to The Science of Parenting podcast, where we connect you with research based information that fits your family. We'll talk about the realities of being a parent, and how research can help guide our parenting decisions. I'm Mackenzie Johnson, parent of two littles with their own quirks. And I'm a parenting educator.

Lori Korthals:

And I'm Lori Korthals, parent of three in two different life stages. Two are launched and one is in high school, and I am a parenting educator. And today we are continuing on with season six. And we began talking last week about resilience. Super fun. And yeah, our special guest, Barb Dunn Swanson, was with us. Yes, we're bringing her back today. And today's focus when we think about resilience is this idea of parenting in tough times, but having these risk and protective factors in all of our lives.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Yes, they're kind of like the puzzle pieces that fit together on resilience. Yes, so. But yeah, this idea of resilience really comes back to tough times. You know, the pandemic has been an example of a tough time we've been parenting through. But we know there's lots of other different ways that tough times show up in our lives. Sometimes, most of the time when we're not ready for it, exactly what to look at these research based ideas and concepts and strategies that allow us to really practice resilience in our lives. And so we know that this looks different for every family, even in similar, you know, tough times or similar, difficult situations, that every family looks different in how they respond, and how they experience it related to factors, you know, like finances and time, and energy and support. All those things play a role. So we know we can't anticipate and relate to every single situation. So instead, we're going to focus on the big picture, what research tells us are the strategies that are kind of universal that you can tap into to build resilience, even through tough times.

Lori Korthals:

Exactly. And tough times are going to happen. And we know that everyone's parenting journey won't always be easy. And I think that the idea behind this entire season is recognizing that tough times mean different things to different people. And remember, just like there's no one way to raise great kids, there's no one way to respond in tough times. So that's kind of our focus this season.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Yes. All this resilience coming through. Yes. Oh, yeah. So let's look at these risk and protective factors, you know, we want to dig into them. But let's talk about, again, terminology. Let's make sure that we have a shared understanding. So do you want to define these for us?

Lori Korthals:

Yes, absolutely. So two words, right, risk and protective factors. So risk factors are those things that create barriers in our lives, right. So these risk factors create barriers, while on the other hand, the protective factors, they're like these buffers, And truth be told, when I got into parenting education and early childhood development, I didn't really understand those big words, protective factors. And so I love that we began to think about them in terms of buffers, because I could really grasp on to that as, Oh, these are our buffers in terms of parenting. So definition wise, we have barriers, and we have buffers.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Absolutely. And yeah, absolutely. And I know, they're kind of like the Ying and the Yang that make the whole picture of resilience. There are difficult times. There are difficult situations, right, that there are different obstacles that people face in those risk factors. But we know that resilience is found when we're able to minimize or lower or reduce risk factors, right? We want to minimize those risk factors, and bolster the protective factors, increase those protective factors, get them as much as we can, build those skills with our kids. We want to bolster those protective factors and minimize the risk factors that are within our control.

Lori Korthals:

We do and because we don't have a crystal ball that tells us when and how and how much tough times are going to happen, you know, we just keep adding these protective factors in as a way to protect our families, our children, ourselves, so that when those tough times do happen, because they are unavoidable, we have these strategies to use in tough times. And I think research gives us some really great strategies to use.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Oh, yeah, we're gonna go through this whole list today of all these protective factors that we can tap into, but I do think we almost need to like pause for a second. These are terms that I feel like I'm fairly familiar with, you know, in our work in terms of risk and protective factors. But for a lot of our listeners, these might be like new words, this idea of, there are certain things that happen in your life or situations you're in, that can create barriers or risk factors, versus other ones that kind of promote protection with those protective factors. And so yeah, you shared this idea of like, well, I don't know if I needed those. So what came to mind the first time you heard it, what comes to mind now, as you think about risk and protective factors?

Lori Korthals:

Well, I legitimately remember thinking when I first came across these in my professional life, thinking, Oh, you know, I got this. Tragic things didn't happen to me, you know, here I was, you know, identifying what's tragic and what's not tragic, right. And then the more I realized, the more I recognized then that I did have these protective factors along the way, and we're going to share a different set of protective factors for individuals, families and communities. But yes, that's what comes to mind to me is, I love what Barb Dunn Swanson told us while we were talking through this episode was Lori, all families want to protect their children. And, you know, I got pictures of like Bambi, right? Mother Bambi protecting small Bambi or Mufasa protecting the Lion King, you know. That idea that we all want to protect our children in some way, shape and form no matter what our family looks like, no matter where our family is, no matter what stage of life, our children are in, we want to protect them, and how can we pad and buffer their toolbox so that they can protect themselves when we're not there?

Mackenzie Johnson:

Oh, for sure. For sure. And yeah, I honestly think you're kind of also recognizing a part of that of risk and protective factors, there is a level of privilege, right? Whether we're born into a family that has a lot of risk factors, or like you said, like, maybe not very many at all? Or that maybe there were so many protective factors, that it buffered what felt like the risk against the other ones.

Lori Korthals:

Exactly, and as we shared and talked about this, I kind of chuckled to myself thinking, actually, you know, I had significant risk factors. My parents were young, okay, they were young, and the community rallied around them. And that's the protective factor. And you shared some risk factors as well.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Oh, absolutely. So yeah, I grew up with a single mom. You know, we didn't always have a lot of money. And so like, as you would maybe walk down a list of risk factors, I had several. And yeah, and when we really, like, if we slow down for a second and think, you know, sometimes we talk about, well, people adjust, but when it comes to these privileges, as you think about, it's really the luck of the draw what family you're born into. as an infant, or that adopts you or that you become a part of, and so the amount of risk factors with the family you're born into, you kind of have no control of, absolutely. And so you know, it's just where on the ladder that starts you for resilience, you know, and so as we add on more protective factors to anybody, we can build them further up in that resilience, but yeah, that idea, I think of the stereotypes is kind of what comes to mind when I first learned these words is, that I, in some ways, would have been categorized as an at risk kid. Absolutely. You know, and I had, fortunately, a lot of protective factors that I came out successful and healthy and these kinds of things. But I do think of the stereotypes that are sometimes associated with it that, well, you have this one risk factor, so that must mean you're at risk, or that must mean these assumptions. And so we want to like caution that we are not saying well, families that have this must be and families that have this must be, right. But understanding that the research tells us there are certain things we can do that can help us be more protected.

Lori Korthals:

Action words. Yes.

Mackenzie Johnson:

And we know like, you know, kind of digging back into this research again, with family resilience and risk factors, Benzies and Mychasiuk in a 2008 study said, family resilience does not develop through the evasion of risk. So it's not about just avoiding it. But through successful application of protective factors, to engage in adverse situations, and emerge from them stronger.

Lori Korthals:

We'd like to think maybe that we could avoid risk, but parenting reality, right? That's what we're about here. The reality of parenting is we can not avoid all risk. But the actions that we can take are those protective factors, adding more buffers to our protective factors.

Mackenzie Johnson:

And, you know, going back to that comment we kind of shared at the end last week about raising happy kids, you know, if you really think about building resilient kids, it's not about making sure nothing hard ever happens. Right? It's about, okay, when hard things happen, what skills and protective factors can we build?

Lori Korthals:

Yes.

Mackenzie Johnson:

And so I do, I just think like, I don't have to try to protect them from everything in the world. I can prepare them, right. And that we can navigate this stuff. Oh, that just gives me hope. Right.

Lori Korthals:

Exactly. So let's walk through, I mean, we are ready to talk about our own reality when it comes to strategies, right?

Mackenzie Johnson:

Yes, the specific protective factors we can look at. That's the research, and it's the reality. This is real stuff we can do is build these protective factors.

Lori Korthals:

It is and the study that you referenced, what they kind of did was, they looked at protective factors

Mackenzie Johnson:

That sounds good. But I do want to let through three different lenses. So what can an individual do? What's the action? Right? What are the actions individuals can do? What are actions that families can take and do to ncrease and buffer and add more hings to their protective actor toolbox, so to speak? And hen what can communiti s do? And how can we tap into ur community? So let's just take these individually, three dif erent concepts through different lenses, three different steps, and we'll talk about ind vidual protective factors f rst. everybody know, we kind of narrowed down. The list that w s in this journal article is l nger than the list we're going t share with you. Because at T e Science of Parenting, we c ose to focus on the factors, t e protective factors that we f lt like were within most p ople's control, or that were r ally about what families do i stead of just how families l ok. So another way we like to s y that is, we're not going to f cus on the form of families, r ght, how you look, it's how you function, it's what you o. So those things that are ithin your control. So you're go ng to get a kind of pared dow list of those things that we t ought were important for those action, or it's the actionabl things, action.

Lori Korthals:

Absolutely, action. And then the first one then is individual action. What do I have internally, this belief that I can control and influence the direction of my life and the world or the you know, another way to say it is the world isn't going to happen to me, I can actually influence my world, right? So individually, I can, and I make things happen. Additionally, individually, when we think of risk, when we think of protective factors, we think of this idea of, I can regulate my emotions. I can regulate how I behave in a certain way. What are the actions that I do and how do I control them? And then finally, when it comes to that internal belief system, that idea that we can create meaning and purpose in our life as an individual. So for those three, when we look at, I have control over the world around me, I have control over my actions and behaviors, and I have control over what I believe my life is about and what its sense of purpose is.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Absolutely. And a few other factors that helped make individuals resilient, right, that build those protective factors is this feeling of self efficacy, right. You're gonna talk about that control. This one is really about kind of that competence, right? And that confidence in your ability to do something. I am able to do things and I believe I'm able to do things. That's a really important protective factor. Another one is related to effective coping skills, right, that we have skills to deal with tough times. Hopefully, you're filling your toolbox right now, listening to this podcast, and you can go back to listen to season two, our six superpowers of self care, particular to parenting but that you have effective coping skills as a protective factor, which relates right into another one, which is being healthy, you know, physically and mentally. And even though that one might seem like well, I can't control if I'm not in good health all the time. But we know that you can practice self care. And if you have a condition that needs to be addressed, that you take care of it so that you can be well, and all of those things. And then another one that's kind of interesting is the ability to increase your education, your skills and your training. Whether that's formal education, whether it's something like a certification program, or trade school, whether that's something about just being a lifelong learner, and the skills that you gain over time, the more we learn and grow, the more protected we are in the world and to build more resilience.

Lori Korthals:

Absolutely. So those are the individual lens that these researchers look through. And remember, Mackenzie said, there are many more on the list. So then let's look through the lens of families. So how do we increase the protective factors of families? So I'm going to cover the three relationship pieces and then let you cover the rest? How about that? So three ways that family relationships can help buffer and increase protective factors are a stable and supportive co-parenting relationship, stable and supportive parent-child interactions. Think about this as in both of these with warm interactions, supportive behaviors, you know, just dependability in the home environment between the adults and the children. And then the third one, is that idea of family cohesion, regardless of what the family looks like, is there cooperation, mutual support, family commitment? So relationships in the families between the adults and children that are stable and supportive. And, you know, cooperating, that provides protective factors for families.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Oh, absolutely. You know, and a few more things that can happen within the family unit, rather than just individuals, is looking at the environment. Is that a stimulating environment, offering our kids appropriate and safe, toys, books and other materials that they can explore. You know, we did the whole season on ages and stages. But what are those appropriate things and having those available in your environment benefits your whole family as a protective factor. And then finally, the social support, whether that's within your family support, whether it's from your neighborhood, your community, your extended family, but that you have social support, and that you're able to accept, receive social support from, you know, both tangible support as well as emotional support from those around you. So absolutely. I think it's worth just like a little pause here to say, like, your investment and your time and energy into your relationships, whether that's your couple or co-parenting relationship, whether that's your relationship with your kids, whether that's just being cooperative with the people around you. That's a huge investment in your child's resilience. Good job. Absolutely. Job. Absolutely.

Lori Korthals:

Yes, we all can do that, regardless of where we are, what the tough time is, and you know, what our family looks like, we all can do that.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Yes, we can invest in those relationships to build the resilience. That's a great thing. That's worth your investment. It's worth your investment.

Lori Korthals:

So all right, the third lens is the lens of community. So what can we do to increase that resilience? One of those things is to involve our children or families in the community. How does that help, Mackenzie?

Mackenzie Johnson:

Yes, so we know that kids getting involved, parents getting involved, can create a sense of belonging. It can, you know, can create companionship, can provide role models, you know, it can also create kind of this like, right, the feel good, like the good fuzzies. Yes, being involved in the community. And the cool thing about this community level protective factor is even if you're not a parent, by you doing some of these protective factors in your community, you can help protect the kids around you, right, the kids in your neighborhood, the kids involved in the organizations you're in. And so one is just being involved. Right. Another one is working to create an environment of peer acceptance or the opportunity for kids and adults to have friendships and interactions, you know, an accepting cultural environment, where it's a safe space, and people feel accepted. And then finally, creating a community that has supportive mentors, people that are non-family. Adults that are invested in both the parents and the children and families. So yeah, mentors, peer acceptance, and just being involved can all help communities be places that are protective factors for families.

Lori Korthals:

Oh, absolutely. I definitely remember times as a child, that my neighborhood, the adults in my neighborhood, they would ask us to come and do things and bring us places. And that was, you know, that was a huge, a huge piece of how I grew up was the neighborhood and the community supporting my family.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Oh, yeah. And in addition to, like, the support that I had in my family and the relationships that I had, and you know, and some the protective factors that my mom helped instill in me of like, you can impact the world. It's not just happening to you. Yeah, and you know, all those skills. I also had coaches. I even think of the carpool families who all lived in the neighborhood. And so and so's parents would drive us this day. And those were all people that were invested in me, and I felt I can trust and helped me feel safe. That's that was a community factor. Absolutely, absolutely.

Lori Korthals:

So we looked at the individual protective factors that we have internally and can control and make action happen with what we can do as families to build resilience and buffer against those risks in our kids. And that community idea.

Mackenzie Johnson:

So we really have all of those options. We do. But really a reminder of these are protective factors. These are things that are going to buffer that risk, things that help us bounce forward in tough times. And you keep reminding us like we're filling the toolbox, you might not be in tough times right now. I can tell you, I did not anticipate the tough time of the pandemic, as a parent, right? I didn't know I needed to be filling my toolbox for that specific tough time. And so sometimes those tough times will blindside us in a way. And having all these skills over time, that's going to help us all bounce forward.

Lori Korthals:

I love that. Let's keep talking about bouncing forward through the through the whole season. Let's do it. Okay, so I think then that that brings us to the Stop. Breathe. Stop. portion of our podcast. And if you are just joining us, this is kind of that place in the podcast where we take a pause. We have our flagship motto of taking a moment to stop, breathe, and be able to talk with our kids, when we maybe are disregulated or out of control. And so we do this in our episode as well. And we give an opportunity typically to our producer, Mackenzie DeJong, and and she's still here with us today, she's in the background. But today and throughout this season, we're actually going to give that opportunity to our writer, Barb Dunn Swanson, because Barb has a deep interest in this topic of resilience. And I started this off last episode with this phrase, and I think I'm gonna carry this through too. So hey, Barb, what are you thinking?

Barb Dunn Swanson:

I am thinking about what a great segue you gave me because you were talking about how our community is important. And you talked about how individually we can do some things and about how our family can be a protective factor. And I want to take that one step further. I want to give you a little bit more information from Bartlett and Vivret. They were talking specifically about the pandemic. And in April 2020, they released a report that talked about just exactly what you've all been talking about - these protective factors. Now, here's a couple of the things that they mentioned in their article. One of the things they talk about is that kids need supportive caregivers. And what parent doesn't try to be the best caregiver they can be and be supportive. They also talk about when we meet our kids' basic needs, whether we're feeding them, whether we're keeping them clothed, whether we provide a house, and whether we get them to school and have that environment where they can play and learn and grow. That is a protective factor. And they need those things. And for the most part, during the pandemic, parents have been able to continue on with those things. A couple other things that this particular article mentions, is support for me as a caregiver. If I'm a parent that feels down and out, or if I am someone that needs support, if I can find the support myself first, I will be a better caregiver. I'll be a better parent. Absolutely. You know how you've heard you can't fill from an empty bucket. Yes. So taking care of ourselves first is really going to be a protective factor. Then in helping us connect with our own kids. Right? And then finally, the last one they mentioned that I think is pretty important, well, two of them together really, is meeting our kids' emotional needs. And you know, that's like checking in with them. Not forgetting that they too are dealing with some tough times. Yeah, they might not look like what mine look like, but they have tough times, too. And checking in with them, asking them how they're doing, creating that communication line, keeping that open. And even if they're not ready to talk right now, maybe they'll want to talk in 10 or 15 minutes, or perhaps two days.

Lori Korthals:

Or at midnight when you're ready to go to sleep.

Mackenzie Johnson:

They come and sit on the foot of your bed.

Barb Dunn Swanson:

Yes, yes, whenever that is, just making sure that line of communication is open. And then that last one is that whole notion back to community support. The connections we have with others are critical. And you know who those others are? It could be extended family members. It could be our siblings. It could be our co-parent. It could be medical professionals, our school teachers, I mean, it could be our faith based community. We are connected to people. We're hardwired to connect. I say that almost every time we visit, don't I? Because we love it. We're hardwired to connect. It's one of those essential building blocks of resilience that Ginsburg talks to us about. Connectedness is so essential. And so as we look at protective factors for families, let's not forget that it starts in the home. There's no judgement about what it looks like. Every family will apply these protective factors in different ways. And it's okay. We want to take small steps forward, we want to bounce forward, like you mentioned, but those bounces can be really small. They don't have to be really, really, really big. So those are the ideas I want to share in our Stop. Breathe. Talk. moment today. And always thank you for the work that you do to bring light to how families can continue to be engaged and supportive and connected with one another.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Oh, thanks, Barb. I'm noticing your list of five is also about what families do rather than what families look like. So I mean, we kind of got two options in terms of like, we got a nice concise list of like, you can commit these five to memory that Barb just walked through, or when you're like, Okay, we need more, we need more options. Yeah, we got options. That's good.

Lori Korthals:

Because every family is different. Yes, yeah. And this is a no judgment, no shame zone. And so I love it that we're able to give so many options so that so many different families can say, I have the options, and opportunity to do it myself. I can do this. I can take this myself, apply it to my family, whether it's adding in people from my community, whether it's connecting, you know, in a more positive way in my family. I can create that action.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Oh, yeah. Yes. Thanks so much for coming on here with us, Barb.

Barb Dunn Swanson:

You are welcome.

Mackenzie Johnson:

We'll see you again soon this season.

Lori Korthals:

I think so. I don't think she's getting out of hanging out with us now and then.

Mackenzie Johnson:

We got her, right.

Lori Korthals:

Yes, absolutely. So you know, summarize us. Wrap us up.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Yeah, so we know that this idea of resilience is really built on this balance of risk and protective factors. We're looking to minimize the risk factors, and increase or maximize our protective factors across all of those different levels, individual, family and community. And we know that each family is going to apply these protective factors a little differently. And that's okay. So we're going to look for the things in our environment that we can impact, the ways we can build resilience, the protective factors that are within our control that are about what we do, and the ways we interact. And so we will do that, you know, we'll work on things like getting our emotions regulated, we'll work on things like finding the things that are within our internal control. And all of those things can help build resilience for our whole family. And then of course, we're gonna realize we're not alone, that there's support out there. Hopefully, this podcast is a form of support, but that the relationships you have, and that when we encounter tough times that we can use these protective factors to build that resilience and again, to kind of bounce forward.

Lori Korthals:

We can and I want to just take one quick moment and ask everyone who's listening or watching to celebrate. Pick a protective factor right now that all of a sudden, this episode, you realize, I have this, like I really have this. I have this at my fingertips, and I maybe didn't recognize it before and know that you can tap into that. We can do hard things, right? We can do hard things. We have these protective factors and so celebrate those and acknowledge that. You have it. It's right there within your grasp.

Mackenzie Johnson:

So, can I put you on the spot? What's a protective factor that you have or that your family has or that your community has that you're going to celebrate?

Lori Korthals:

Oh, okay, so I definitely think that we're going to celebrate, we're gonna celebrate that actually, we are able to find ways to help emotionally regulate ourselves. So we can celebrate that we know how to Stop. Breathe. Talk. We know how to go for a walk. We know as a family, you know, co parenting children, the dog, right? We know how to take a breath when we hit hard times, get back into our thinking brain and go, Okay, this is how we're going to tackle this tough time. How about you?

Mackenzie Johnson:

The one that I feel like is just like glaring in my face right now is, I think of the amount of like, supportive adults that we have around our family. We're fortunate we live in a community where most of our immediate family lives, you know, siblings, parents and things. But like, even you know, our friends and the people that are involved in the organizations we're involved in that I'm really fortunate that I feel like my kids and myself are surrounded by supportive people. And that that protects them and me.

Lori Korthals:

It does. Oh, good question. It's important to celebrate it, and to celebrate. So up next, next episode, we're actually going to look at how relationships can support our families to be resilient when those tough times set in. So we have risk and protective factors that covered that. But how can relationships really add and buffer in those risk and protective factors?

Mackenzie Johnson:

And these first two episodes are really kind of helping us to find this understanding that we have of like, what is resilience? And that perspective, that lens we really want to take as we think about tough times. We want to think about increasing protective factors. We want to think about bouncing forward. But these next few episodes are really going to be more about specific aspects of your parenting that, gosh, that help you get through the tough times, like, okay, things are hard right now, what are the things I can deal with? So one of them is relationships. And there's gonna be more to come after that.

Lori Korthals:

There is so absolutely. Thanks for joining us today on The Science of Parenting podcast. And remember to subscribe to our weekly audio podcast on Apple or Spotify, or your favorite podcast app. You can also watch us weekly on Facebook, and then you can join us on Twitter at scienceofparents, and then our content will just show up in your feed.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Yes, so please do come along with us as we tackle the ups and downs, the ins and outs and the research and reality all around The Science of Parenting.

Anthony Santiago:

The Science of Parenting is hosted by Lori Korthals and Mackenzie Johnson, produced by Mackenzie DeJong, with research and writing by Barbara Dunn Swanson. Send in questions and comments to parenting@iastate.edu. And connect with us on Facebook and Twitter. This institution is an equal opportunity provider. For the full non-discrimination statement or accommodation inquiries go to www.extension.iastate.edu/diversity.ext