The Communities that Care Prevention Coalition of Centre County operates on the premise that, to develop healthy children, we need to minimize risk factors related to violence, antisocial behavior and substance. The premise simultaneously calls for adults to maximize protective factors — those things that buffer young people from the negative effects of these risk factors. One powerful way to develop protective factors in your children is by developing positive connections with them, in whatever ways we can, big or small. These are the connections that build protective factors.
There are many ways to look at fathering, but one model I appreciate is the National Center for Fathering’s ICAN approach. ICAN stands for involvement, consistency, awareness and nurturance — a comprehensive, simple way to look at these key roles of fathering.
Involvement is about spending time with your child. Consistency means being predictable to your kids. Awareness deals with having a handle on your child’s friends, interests and emotional needs. Nurturance is encouraging your kids and letting them know you love them.
One protective factor that can be developed with the ICAN approach is family attachment. Many fathers struggle with involvement with their children, but, with a little conscious effort, fathers can improve in this area. Volunteer at your child’s school. Read a book together. Spend five minutes playing catch. Tuck them in at night. And while you’re spending this time with them, ask about their friends. Listen to them if they express concern or anxiety about something. Be sure to tell them you love them. Do this regularly. You’ve just also worked on consistency, awareness and nurturance. By being involved in activities that they are interested in such as Scouting, sports, music or the outdoors, you can also help connect them to positive peers, groups and adults.
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“Making a meaningful contribution to his/her family” is another protective factor that parents can encourage, with a little thought. Ask the opinion of your children before making decisions that affect them, and engage them in family chores like cooking meals together. There are seven other protective factors, and all of them can be promoted or developed with this kind of thinking and behavior.
Most parents would agree that parenting is the hardest job in the world, bar none. Having three boys keeps my life so busy, I find myself barely keeping afloat at times as I speed from one activity to another. But if within the busy schedules of our lives we can develop a cocoon of protective factors, we can make a huge difference in our children’s futures, and in Centre County.