No matter what your family looks like, one thing that binds us is that being a parent is the toughest job you’ll ever love.

The pandemic has added additional challenges and the holidays can compound financial and emotional stresses. We all love our children dearly, but even under the best of circumstances being a parent means that at all times you wear a piece of your heart on your sleeve and can doubt your decisions, especially during these unprecedented times.

In the midst of all your doubts, ask yourself: What makes my family strong? The answer will be different for most, but for all of us, using protective factors in our homes enhanced with a virtual community approach is a benefit. It may sound overwhelming, but many of Kenosha’s finest youth-serving organizations, schools and medical providers have begun the Five Protective Factors approach, and you can too!

1. PARENTAL RESILIENCE: Managing stress and functioning well when faced with challenges, adversity and trauma. The basic blocks to build on are communication skills, coping strategies, belief system and hope. Ask yourself, how are you able to meet your children’s needs when you are dealing with your own stress?

2. KNOWLEDGE OF PARENTING AND CHILD DEVELOPMENT: Understanding child development and parenting strategies that support physical, cognitive, language, social and emotional development. What are some of the things you find hard about being a parent? We can start here.

3. SOCIAL CONNECTIONS: Positive relationships that provide emotional, informational, instrumental and spiritual support. When things get tough, who can you call for advice or just to talk?

4. CONCRETE SUPPORT IN TIMES OF NEED: Access to concrete support and services that address a family’s needs and help minimize stress caused by challenges. Even during the pandemic, many services are available through virtual options.

5. SOCIAL AND EMOTIONAL COMPETENCE OF CHILDREN: Family and child interactions that help children develop the ability to communicate clearly, recognize and regulate their emotions and establish and maintain relationships. When you spend time with your child, what do you like to do together? Use this time to slow down and really connect.

Keep asking yourself questions. Parents aren’t given a manual, but in this day and age it seems we have all been given smart phones and access to wi-fi, so on behalf of the young people in your life, keep learning more about the protective factors approach.

Organizations like Kenosha Area Family and Aging Services also offer parenting classes. These classes have increased attendance (virtually) by 120%! It’s a great way to develop deeper knowledge of parenting and gain additional social connections.

The next scheduled virtual classes begin in January. It is a 10-week class providing 15 hours of instruction for $25. Scholarships are available. Parents can register by calling 262-658-3508 or online at www.kafasi.org. The website also includes other parenting support options.

Katie Oatsvall is executive director of Kenosha Area Family and Aging Services.