If you were not aware, April is child abuse prevention month. As parents, I think it is very beneficial for us to be fully aware of the signs and symptoms of child abuse, how to prevent child abuse, and what we should do if we suspect child abuse. First and foremost, we should discuss the different forms of child abuse. The most common forms of abuse are physical, sexual, emotional, medical, and neglect. Physical abuse occurs when a child is purposely injured or put at risk of harm by another person. Sexual abuse is any sexual activity with a child. Emotional abuse is injuring a child’s self-esteem or emotional well-being. Medical abuse occurs when someone gives false information about an illness that requires medical attention. Neglect is failure to provide adequate food, shelter, affection, supervision, education, or medical care. Now that we have a better idea of what child abuse is, lets see how we can notice possible signs of the abuse. Without getting into the specific forms of child abuse and their specific symptoms, the general signs/symptoms are withdrawal from friends or their normal activities, changes in behavior, depression/anxiety/unusual fears, apparent lack of supervision, frequent absences from school, reluctance to leave school activities (child doesn’t want to go home), attempts at running away, rebellious or defiant behaviors, and self-harm/suicide attempts. If a child shows one or more of these types of issues, research specifics and see if this increases your concerns for this child’s well-being.
Next, we can get into how to prevent child abuse. The best ways of preventing child abuse are to make sure you are doing the following as a parent: Offer your child love and affection (nurture your child, listen and be involved to develop trust and good communication), don’t respond in anger (if you feel overwhelmed, take a break before losing your temper), think supervision (keep a close eye on him/her, do not leave them alone in public places), know your child’s caregivers (check references, make unannounced visits etc.), emphasize when to say no (make sure they understand it’s OK for them to say NO in uncomfortable situations), teach your child how to stay safe online (make sure you can monitor you children’s time and content), and reach out to neighborhood supports (parents, neighbors).
Now we can get into the steps that should be taken if we have no doubt that a child is suffering from abuse. If you’re concerned that you might abuse your own child, or another child is showing signs/symptoms, seek help immediately. There are plenty of organizations that will provide information and referrals. To name two, we have Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline (1-800-4-A-Child, or 1-800-422-4453), and Prevent Child Abuse America (1-800-CHILDREN, or 1-800-244-5373).
Lead Toddler Wrangler
Parent Connection Coordinator