The Pandemic and Protective Factors

by Jeanne Preisler •

Even in times of stress, all families have strengths they can build on when they have the right supports. The Strengthening Families Protective Factor Framework® gives us some tangible tools we can lean into during this pandemic and its aftermath.

Protective Factor: Parental Resilience
What It Is: The ability to manage your reactions to stress and to function well enough when bad things happen.

Things You Can Do to Build Protective Factors During the Pandemic:

  • It is okay to let your kids have some extra screen time if that is what makes it possible for you to take care of yourself.
  • Linger a little longer over your morning coffee/tea.
  • Look for moments of joy, no matter how small.
  • Look for ways your children are growing.
  • Pay attention to how you are feeling. For areas you need new parental strategies to overcome, reach out to or your friends to help.

Protective Factor: Social Connections

What It Is: Staying connected to positive relationships such as family, friends, and  neighbors can make parenting challenges easier.

Things You Can Do to Build Protective Factors During the Pandemic:

  • Connect with someone every day, even if it is just a text exchange.
  • Make video play dates for your kids.
  • You and your children can use chalk on your driveway or sidewalk to write words of encouragement for those walking by.
  • Check on your neighbors. It helps our mental health when we support others!

Protective Factor: Knowledge of Parenting and Child Development

What It Is: Knowing what to expect as children grow can make parenting a lot easier.

Things You Can Do to Build Protective Factors During the Pandemic:

  • To the best of your ability, keep up a routine (for you and your child). We all get off schedule and disorganized sometimes, but get back to routine as soon as you can.
  • Check to see if your child is hitting key developmental milestones by visiting
  • Prioritize sleep and hydration for you and your child; both help you manage stress.

Protective Factor: Concrete Support in Times of Need

What It Is: Being able to pay bills and have safe shelter, food, and clothing allow you to focus more on your children.

Things You Can Do to Build Protective Factors During the Pandemic:
The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services is committed to helping your family. Please check out these resources if you need support.

Protective Factor: Social and Emotional Competence of Children

What It Is: Children’s ability to: manage their emotions; communicate what they are feeling and experiencing; and build healthy relationships with their peers and adults.

Things You Can Do to Build Protective Factors During the Pandemic:

  • Infants and children are sensitive to the stress level of caregivers. Be as consistent and calm as you can.
  • The more positive attention you can give toddlers (30 hugs a day is a good goal), the less likely they will be to act out to get attention.
  • Ask children/youth what they’re concerned about and let them talk about their fears and missing friends. Help them see their feelings are okay.

These suggestions come from the wonderful article Building Resilience in Troubled Times: A Guide for Parents.

One More Thing

It can be easy to be overwhelmed by advice, even good advice. Here’s a really short list that you can stick on the refrigerator or save on your phone:

Taking care of yourself is good for you and for your kids. You can’t pour from an empty cup.

Be kind to yourself. No one is a perfect parent, and some days will be better than others.

Give your kids positive attention, share moments of joy and laughter, and help them explore their own feelings. Structure is good, but so is flexibility!

Stay connected and help your kids stay connected to the important people in your lives.

Ask for help. And help others.

Get the SCOOP

Click here to get the SCOOP on managing stress.