Stay on the Road to Well-Being

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There are many challenges facing families with children these days, specifically when a parent finds him or herself parenting alone. Sometimes, it is hard to see around these challenges to a healthy outcome. What defines a family is different today than even fifteen years ago. As single-parent households increase, so do the opportunities to intentionally support and educate adult caregivers on decreasing family stress and strain, which could improve the future health outcomes of children living in non-traditional homes. Resilience can be found and developed in the face of difficult change. 

Resilience in these changing families depends on how well caregivers can support constructive relationships and protect each other from the effects of change-related stress. Trauma experiences manifest differently for each person, and immediate impacts on the body are directly related to the existence of the protective factors identified by Prevent Child Abuse NC, which include social and emotional competence, knowledge of parenting and child development, social connections, concrete support, and resilience. Unhealed trauma can spill over onto other family members, spreading trauma like a contagion. The best thing we can do is address and heal trauma before this can happen and be sure families in transition remain focused on establishing or continuing the protective factors.

The Center for Applied Research Solutions printed an article that discusses how our contexts and environments influence us. Children who experience positive stress with proper support will develop resilience and a positive sense of well-being. Prevent Child Abuse North Carolina works to educate the public that our human connections impact the brain’s ability to grow and our abilities to cope and thrive and that risk factors that affect resilience can include adverse childhood experiences. If human connections impact our coping, parents and caregivers are the front line to provide that important positive influence, increasing their protective factors. 

Building a strong, resilient community is a priority for a number of Lee County organizations. Recently, The Partnership for Children and Families held a community cafe, bringing organizations across our community together to assess how strong we are and what needs still exist. I was encouraged to learn how many resources are available. The biggest concern encountered that day was how to get the knowledge of these resources disseminated to those who need it the most.

4-H programs are a place where many of the five protective factors can be cultivated and where volunteers are encouraged to be part of the social network for members. 4-H professionals are taught the “Thrive Model” of Positive Youth Development, which ensures young people have a place to be nourished and grow. Being a community resource that helps families going through unusual circumstances goes a long way toward building resilient communities.

As families change, so should the support and outreach opportunities in a community. Studies show that building resilience is the biggest way to survive a difficult situation without incurring internal and ongoing trauma. Communities like Lee County are listening and offering many resources and support. Families can encourage good health through nutrition and physical activity, utilizing local park systems and the many organizations like N.C. Cooperative Extension and Health and Human Services offering nutrition education. Organizations like the Partnership for Children and Families offer education and parenting support that mitigate the effects of anxiety caused by unexpected change. Youth-serving organizations like 4-H offer skill-building and support with caring adults who build healthy relationships with members. There are many ways to get caught in the cyclical problem of trauma, but there are also many ways to promote well-being and teach it to our children.

For resources on this topic or others, please contact Pam Kerley, the 4-H Program Assistant for North Carolina Cooperative Extension, Lee County Center. 4-H is a positive youth development program offering programs that suit a variety of backgrounds, interests, budgets, and schedules. From in-school to after-school, clubs to camps, 4-H programs are available in Lee County, and we welcome children who want to have fun, learn, and grow. In North Carolina, 4-H is brought to you by the NC State Cooperative Extension. N.C. Cooperative Extension’s experts and educators share university knowledge, information, and tools you can use daily to improve your life.