The best foundations are built off thoughtful planning and by leveraging the strengths that exist. All families have strengths and they need the space and opportunity to channel them as they raise their children. The world we live in operates in a way where we sometimes miss this and instead say what’s wrong and how do we fix it. Just imagine what could happen if instead we started saying to one another what’s strong and how do we build on it. Think of how this opens up possibilities and hope.

Our communities need this hope and while we can’t take away every challenge families will face, we can build what are called protective factors. These five simple yet significant things all families need regardless of race, social class or any quantifier you throw out. The beauty in them is that they really make sense. It's things like knowledge of parenting and child development and building our children’s social and emotional competence to help them regulate to interact socially. Children need us and even we sometimes as adults need help with this. That is where our social connections come in with having those positive people in our lives who give us help and hope. The hope is what helps build the fourth protective factor of resilience. Now, this is a tricky one because resilience is something that is kind of like a muscle: Sometimes you are flexing it and sometimes it's just there, ready to be activated when needed. The beauty in resilience, however, is not in the idea of bouncing back but rather going through the hard and challenging moments and knowing those are strengthening and transforming you.

Trust me: I don’t wish hard parenting days on anyone, but as a parent myself, I can say those “trials” and challenging moments have helped me discover a strength I never knew I had. As fast as our children grow, it is rarely mentioned how we as adults are growing alongside them. It's why we need concrete support in times of need, the final protective factor. We all need help sometimes, and it's in those moments of asking for help that we are demonstrating our greatest strength. It's putting us in a place of great vulnerability, but empowering the human connection.

Let’s take this and begin to think, "What does it look like in my life?" "How am I living it?" You see, these used to be the handout I shared at my community events, but as time has gone on, a realization has grown. The protective factors aren’t just things that sound good, they are the things that make sense and make up the actions of everyday moments. They are there when times are good, but more importantly, are there in the tough moments as buffers for children. That’s the key, because children are our future. By us as individuals and communities making this mental shift to strength-based thinking and using this approach, we can meet people where they are at and find creative ways to meet needs as they arise. We can keep children and families strong.

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Kara Georgi, of Auburn, is the mother of two children and a contributing writer. In addition, she is the co-chair of the Alliance National Parent Partnership Council, is on the Parent Leadership Team for the state Office of Children and Family Services, is a trainer of the community cafe approach and is a certified trainer in the Protective Factors Framework. She is also recognized as a tier-two state Parenting Education Partnership parenting educator.