Director, Raising Children Network
Honorary Fellow, Murdoch Children's Research Institute
Former Principal Specialist, Parenting Research Centre
Parents are the most important people in shaping the healthy development of children, a positive home environment contributes to children's learning and a strong family builds children's resilience. But what makes a family strong? This presentation will explore the characteristics of strong families and how they can be recognised and supported by parents, early educators, professional service providers and policy makers.
Understanding what matters to families in the 21st century helps guide policy directions that lead to improved services and supports. Focusing on strengths and resilience in children and families, this speech will also offer insights on the needs and priorities of contemporary parents, drawing on more than 15 years of data from a range of parenting research and support initiatives including the Raising Children Network platform accessed by 150,000 parents daily, the Parenting Today in Victoria (2022) representative survey of 2600 Victorian parents, and research exploring factors influencing parent engagement and support.
The talk will also highlight information-seeking behaviours of parents—particularly in online environments— as well as key considerations on how we convey messages about parenting and implications for the service system and policy-makers. There will also be a special focus on the future and digital parenting support, to explore the question 'what does contemporary support for strong families look like in 5 years?'. Raising Children Network has developed a range of supports in this space including webinars, podcasts and the recent co-design of a mobile app for parents on social and emotional wellbeing in children.
Established as a consortium of the Murdoch Children's Research Institute and the Parenting Research Centre, Raising Children Network works with 400+ experts in infant, child and adolescent health and wellbeing, learning and development around Australia.
Derek McCormack is Director of the Raising Children Network. Derek leads a highly skilled and talented team in the knowledge translation and online delivery of evidence-informed resources supporting parents and carers around the healthy development of children.
He also leads Raising Children Network's collaborations with the Australian and state governments, non-government organisations, businesses and community organisations and he regularly contributes to the media on issues of raising children in Australia.
Derek's background is in science communication (M.Sc.), digital media and web development. He holds an appointment of Honorary Fellow at the Murdoch Children's Research Institute and has more than 15 years' experience working with the Parenting Research Centre in consultation, strategy development and managing the development of digital resources for a wide range of stakeholders.
As an advanced specialist in knowledge translation, co-design and digital content production, all of Derek's work has been driven by a long-standing passion for communicating and applying research. His areas of expertise include biological science, child development, parent engagement, parenting support, father inclusive practice, child resilience, child mental health and communication approaches with parents across home, early years and school settings.
Chair Professor of Applied Social Sciences
The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Hong Kong SAR
Although COVID-19 is primarily a physical disease, it has adverse effects beyond physical health. Impairment in the psychological, social and spiritual domains also takes place, which would further undermine family quality of life. Besides, families are much affected during the pandemic. Because of social distancing measures, people are “forced” to stay in the family, which would generate family conflicts particularly on the use of IT and space resources. Besides, different views of family members on preventive measures would also create family conflict. Furthermore, family financial hardship as a result of the pandemic such as “forced no-pay leave” also creates much stress for families. For policy-makers, how to deal with emerging issues generated by COVID-19 (e.g., digital divide, gender inequality, economic strain, and negative family maladjustment) and promote positive individual and family well-being are important questions to be considered.
To empower families to meet the challenges under COVID-19, macro policies have been devised in different societies, such as salary guarantee programs, financial subsidy programs, family-friendly and good workplace practices, and family support programs. While these policies are valuable, it is argued that building up family resilience can help to empower families. With reference to the Family Resilience Framework (Walsh, 2015, 2016), we propose that we should empower families through developing their capabilities in three domains. These include beliefs systems (meaning about adversity, hope, and transcendence and spirituality), structural and organizational patterns (flexibility, connectedness, economic and social resources), and communication processes (clear information, open emotional expression, and collaborative problem solving). Based on this framework, we are implementing a 3-year family resilience project supported by the Hong Kong Jockey Charities Trust. Research findings showed that family resilience protects families from the negative impact of COVID-19 stress on the well-being of family members.
Professor Daniel T. L. Shek is Associate Vice President (Undergraduate Programme), Chair Professor of Applied Social Sciences, and Li and Fung Endowed Professor in Service Leadership Education at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Advisory Professor of East China Normal University, and Changjiang Chair Professor.
Professor Shek is a passionate teacher. He has received two Bronze Awards (Ethical Leadership and Social Enterprise), one Silver Award (Ethical Leadership), and two Gold Awards (Sustainability and Nurturing Well-Being and Purpose) from the QS Reimagine Education Awards, and the University Grants Committee Teaching Award. He was also awarded the Distinguished QOL Researcher Award, International Society for Quality-of-Life Studies (ISQOLS).
He is Editor-in-Chief of Applied Research in Quality of Life, past Consulting Editor of Journal of Clinical Psychology, and a Series Editor of Quality of Life in Asia published by Springer. He is Editorial Board member of several international journals, including Children and Youth Services Review and Journal of Adolescent Health. Professor Shek was Chairman of the Action Committee against Narcotics (2009-2014) and the Family Council (2013-2021), Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, PRC.
His recent publication on COVID-19 includes: Shek DTL. COVID-19 and Quality of Life: Twelve Reflections. Appl Res Qual Life. 2021;16(1):1-11.