Inspiring Resilience, Creating Hope

May is National Mental Health Awareness month.  We have come a long way as a nation over the last couple of decades in how we view mental health issues, however, we still need to continue to improve the way people with a mental illness are viewed and treated. 

Mental health is simply our emotional, mental, and spiritual health.  It is just as important as our physical health.  In fact, the two go hand-in-hand.   It is important for us to realize that people of all ages, race, ethnicity, religion and incomes are diagnosed with mental health concerns.  Nearly every person in America has either had mental health issues at one time in their life or has a close friend or family member who has had mental health issues at some point.  The stigma around mental health needs to be broken.  Mental health issues should be viewed no differently than physical health issues.    

This year’s theme for Mental Health Awareness month is Inspiring Resilience, Creating Hope.  There is a great deal of research that has been done in recent years showing that resiliency acts as a buffer in all areas of a person’s life, including mental and emotional health.  The good news is that resilience is something we are all born with and can be strengthened. 

Last month’s blog spoke briefly about parental resilience as one of the protective factors that decreases abuse and neglect and promotes healthy family relationships.  We defined it as the ability to cope with stresses; both the day-to-day stresses, as well as the occasional crisis.  This is sometimes described as being a “bounce back” person or family.  The same definition applies for resilience in children of all ages. 

So, why is being resilient so important?  The more resilient a person is the better day-to-day health they have in all areas of their life.  Seventy percent of all people will experience at least one trauma in their lifetime.  Resiliency helps people deal with the bumps of life, as well as the bigger stressors.  It is a good idea to build resiliency before it is needed for a crisis. 

There are a number of fairly simple things that adults can do to help promote resilience in children.  The number one thing is relationships.  Researchers agree that the primary building block for resilience is caring, supportive relationships.  Adults can do this by responding to their children’s physical and emotional needs in a timely manner and with patience.  Another easy way to build relationships is to have fun together.  Schedule time every day to get down on the floor or go outside and play with your child.  

Adults can also help promote resilience in children by listening and responding to their child in a reflective manner.  When your child is talking to you give them your full attention and then make sure to state back to them what you heard them say and any emotions you believe they are experiencing.  Then allow your child to confirm or clarify that you understand what they were saying and feeling.  We all need to be heard and have our feelings supported. 

As always, adults can use modeling.  It is important for us to model the skills that lead to resilience for our children.  We need to make sure our children see us engaging in supportive relationships, having fun and sharing our thoughts and feelings.  These are just a few suggestions for building resilience that you can start working on today for yourself, with your children and in your family, which will lead to improved mental and emotional health. 

For more suggestions on ways to build resilience, additional ways to support your family and for other great parenting tips call the Family Support Line at 1-877-695-7996 OR 1-866-Las-Familias (866-527-3264) for Spanish speakers. You can also e-mail with questions or concerns. Check us out on Facebook at Families First Colorado.  The Family Support Line offers parenting tips, resources and information only and does not serve as legal or mental health advice. We believe you are the paramount person to decide what is best for your family. Comments provided by non-Families First individuals are not the opinion of Families First.



"Kids—You Can't Beat 'em."

“Kids-You can’t beat ‘em”, was one of the first logos in 1983, when President Reagan proclaimed April to be the first National Child Abuse Prevention Month.  I love the dual meaning of this statement.  We can’t be physically aggressive with kids.  But equally as important, is the message that there is special value in children.  Thirty years later, we continue to promote the value of our children and their families, as well as the fact that every member of the community has a responsibility to help prevent child abuse and neglect. 

If you would like information on how to get involved in promoting the value of children and families, give us a call on the Family Support Line, at 877-695-7996 or via email at

Preventing child abuse and neglect can sound like an overwhelming task, but it really comes down to some basic things that we all can do to help strengthen families.  Research shows that there are five protective factors that help strengthen families.  These factors act like buffers to stress and increase the health and well-being of children and families. 

The Protective Factors are:

  •  Concrete Supports for Parents
  • Social Connections and Emotional Competence
  • Parental Resilience
  • Knowledge of Parenting and of Child/Youth Development
  • Nurturing and Attachment
Denver Human Services did a great campaign this year for April’s Child Abuse Prevention Month that makes it easy to remember the protective factors.  It is entitled 5 Ways to Keep Families Stable, Help Kids Thrive and Uphold a Strong Community:
  1. Call for Help!
  2. Surround Yourselves with Friends and Family
  3. Be a Bounce Back Family
  4. Become a Parenting Ace
  5.  Help Children Express Themselves
Concrete Supports for Parents, also known as supports for basic needs, is the first protective factor that needs to be addressed.  Families need to have their basic needs meet before they can focus on the other factors that will strengthen them.  Find these concrete supports for your own family and help other families locate them as well.  You can locate these supports within your community in a variety of ways, including local non-profits (such as the Family Support Line at Families First), faith based communities and social service agencies.  These groups and agencies will partner with parents to help identify and access resources in the community such as food, clothing, housing, quality childcare, health and dental care, social-emotional services, and variety of other resources.

Another factor is Social Connections and Emotional Competence.  This boils down to surrounding yourself and your children with friends and family.  It is very important for both adults and children to have Social Connections.  When adults have social connections they are modeling for the children around them how to interact with others and their world.  The same is true for emotional competence, when we as grown-ups work on our own emotional health; we are modeling emotional wellness for our children.  If you do not have supportive friends and family, consider neighbors, spiritual groups, the local child/parent play group, or your child’s school.  There are a variety of places to find connections for yourself and your child.  If you or another adult you know does not have a support system, consider joining a Parent Support Group.  Families First offers Circle of Parents ® Support groups and can also connect you with other support groups across the state.

Parental Resilience is the ability to cope with stresses, both the day-to-day stresses, as well as the occasional crisis.  This is sometimes described as being a “bounce back” person or family.  Are you able to bounce back when things get tough?  The other two Protective Factors we had mentioned, Concrete Support and Social Connections, can both help to increase a person’s resilience.  Having someone that can help you talk through a stress increases the chance a person will bounce back from the stress. 

The protective factor, Knowledge of Parenting & Child Development is becoming informed as a parent about ways to communicate with your child, set rules and expectations, and provide safe opportunities that promote independence.  These things need to be done while taking the child’s current development into consideration.  Healthy child development and effective parenting are connected.  If you would like to learn more about effective parenting or child development consider attending a parenting class or support group.

The final protective factor is Nurturing and Attachment, last, but not least by any means!  In fact, most times this is the first factor listed due to the importance of nurturing and attachment.  A child’s early experience of being loved and cared for by a safe, reliable adult has an effect on all aspects of their life.  It will determine how they treat others and how they allow others to treat them as they grow into adulthood.  Nurturing and attachment are crucial not just when a child is young, but throughout their lives.  This can set the stage for the other factors to develop.

These five factors are not only good for the parent-child relationship, but they help to decrease stress on an individual level, as well as a community level.  If individuals are less stressed, then their relationships will be less stressed, which will produce a less stressed community as a whole.  Pick one factor and work on fine-tuning it to increase your protection against stress.  Don’t know where to find the resources, social supports, parenting classes?  Need someone to listen when you are stressed or a place to Brainstorm ideas?  Call Families First at 877-695-7996 or email us at  We would love to help you tackle a protective factor!

We also have a Spanish Family Support Line at 866-527-3264 or  Check us out on Facebook at Families First Colorado.  The Family Support Line offers parenting tips, resources and information only and does not serve as legal or mental health advice. We believe you are the paramount person to decide what is best for your family. Comments provided by non-Families First individuals are not the opinion of Families First.

Saving the Parent-Teen Relationship

Stacy Hladek | Families First

I have recently been talking to one of my close friends regarding parenting struggles he is having with his teenagers. The topic of protecting the parent-teen relationship in the context of setting boundaries and consequences has come up several times. I began to think about how to negotiate the boundaries and consequences all families must have to function effectively, within the parent-teen relationship.

In my friend’s case, he is concerned if he is too strict or pushes too hard he will damage the relationship. However, he has also acknowledged there is a good chance his sons are aware of his fear and use this to their advantage. On the other hand, my friend understands if he is passive he may give the boys the impression that their behaviors are acceptable or that he does not care about the behaviors or them. What is a parent to do?


Parent Leadership, One of Our Most Valuable Resources

Stacy Hladek | Families First

One of the most valuable resources our society has at our disposable is parent leadership.  February is National Parent Leadership month. Created by Parents Anonymous ® Inc. in 2004, February is set aside to recognize, honor and celebrate parents for their invaluable leadership roles in their homes and communities, as well as state, national and international arenas. This annual event acknowledges the strengths of parents as leaders and promotes awareness about the important roles parents can play in shaping the lives of their families and communities.

The state of Colorado has a variety of Parent Leadership trainings and opportunities. 


The Importance of Fathers in Their Children’s Lives

Stacy Hladek, Family Resource Coordinator | Families First

If you knew there was one thing our nation could do to improve every area of a child's development, would you be in support of that one thing? Research shows children that have involvement from both a father and mother perform better in all developmental areas. Children need their fathers to be involved. For far too long, our country has seen fathers at best as an add-on to what mothers provide for children and in some cases fatherhood has been discounted altogether.

Families First, Colorado Dads and the state of Colorado value the vital role fathers play in the lives of children. The Colorado Fatherhood Council, in conjunction with Families First, is holding five Fatherhood Forums across the state this month to share information regarding the Council becoming a Practitioner's Network as well as to obtain additional input regarding the needs and assets that can be mobilized to promote fatherhood services in Colorado.

In addition, these meetings will try to find additional people to help plan and participate in a Leadership Summit on Fatherhood and/or to be involved in the practitioner's network. If you would like to participate in one of these forums please register by going to this link:

In the meantime, take a look at some of the research that clearly shows the importance of fathers in all areas of a child's life and development. Here are just a few of the stats that can be found online:


School Avoidance (Part Two)

Stacy Hladek, Family Resource Coordinator | Families First

As I mentioned in my previous blog, we have had an increase in calls to our Family Support Line related to children refusing to go to school.  If you did not read the previous blog, it would be a good place to start regarding general information on heading off school avoidance in children. 

What is school avoidance?  The website, Human Illnesses, defined school avoidance as “when children and teens repeatedly stay home from school or are repeatedly sent home from school, because of emotional problems or because of aches and pains that are caused by emotions or stress and not by medical illness”.  School avoidance, also referred to as school phobia or school refusal, occurs in approximately 2-5% of school age children.  It is most common in 5-6 year olds and 10-11 year olds. 

Typical behaviors for a child or teen that has school avoidance is for them to come up with reasons not to go to school, to complain of physical symptoms shortly before it is time to go to school, or to make repeated visits to the school nurse or counselor once at school, with similar physical complaints. 


School Avoidance

Stacy Hladek, Family Resource Coordinator | Families First

We have had three calls to our Family Support Line in the last month related to children refusing to go to school. It occurred to me that this might be a good topic to address in the blog. In the twenty years that I have been working with children and families, I have noticed that school avoidance seems to rise around the holidays. I believe there are a few reasons for the peak in school avoidance around this time of year. The first is that the semester is finishing up and the stress increase due to projects and tests that are due. Midterms and finals can be very stressful for students of all ages. The holidays also tend to bring out stress in most adults and children pick up on our stress levels. Another reason that school avoidance seems to be up this time of year is due to the school breaks. It can be especially difficult for a student that has anxiety around school to return after they have had a break for the holidays.

Be proactive and implement some of the following strategies to try to head off the possibility that your child will develop school avoidance over the holidays:


The Magic of Toddlers

Stacy Hladek | Families First

August is not only the month that most children return to school, but it is also unofficially National Toddler Month. So it seemed appropriate to blog on something related to toddlers this month. Toddlers are defined as children between the ages of one to three. This is my favorite age group. They are those magical creatures that find awe in everything!  Everything is new and exciting to them. They are working on figuring out how to assert their independence, but also want to know that they can come back at a seconds notice to the security of their adults. This time is fleeting, in about two short years your cute little toddler will turn into a preschooler. How do you capitalize on and enjoy those magical years of toddlerhood?


Tips for taking your child to the Doctor

Stacy Hladek | Families First

Is your child a Nervous Nelly when it's time for a visit to the doctor?

Here are some helpful tips thanks to Mountainland Pediatrics:

  • Talk about doctor visits in a positive way. Read fun books to your child about doctor visits prior to your appointment.
  • If your child asks if the shot or procedure will hurt, don't fib about it; get down at your child's eye-level and explain that the shot may hurt a little for a few seconds.


Food Pranks and Other So Called Summer Fun

Stacy Hladek | Families First

Do you know what your kids are doing for summer fun?  Have you heard them talking about food challenges?  Have they mentioned the chubby bunny game, the choking game, or burns?  If you have heard them talking about any of these activities, they may be involved in potentially dangerous activities or know someone else who is involved in risky behaviors.   

The activities listed in this blog can be an issue year-round, however the risk to children and teens during the summer months is increased due to the fact that they often have less adult supervision while school is out.  In addition, they have a great deal of time on their hands.  Add the internet to the mix and you could have an accident waiting to happen.    Remember, to kids these behaviors seem harmless and humorous.  Social media has made light of these behaviors and even promoted them as the “cool” thing to do. 

So, what is a parent to do? 


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