Child Abuse Prevention Month: Be A Part of the Solution


April is Child Abuse Prevention Month, and we can all use it as a time to reflect on an issue that's unpleasant and often overlooked. Child abuse can happen in many forms, and it doesn't always occur just within the home. Here is some information about child maltreatment and what you can do to help prevent it in your home or community.

What is Child Abuse?

According to the Center for Disease Control, child abuse includes not only physical and sexual abuse, but also emotional abuse, such as name-calling, threatening or shaming a child; and neglect, which is the failure to meet a child's basic needs. Child abuse disrupts normal brain development, causes or contributes to all kinds of physical and mental health problems, and puts children at higher risk of alcoholism, depression, heart disease and other negative health outcomes later in life.

Risk Factors for Child Maltreatment:

Children under the age of four and children with disabilities, or those with social or developmental problems are more vulnerable to abuse or maltreatment. Certain factors also make it more likely a parent or guardian will become abusive. Those with substance abuse issues, teen or single parents, or those who experienced abuse may be more likely to become abusers themselves.

Fostering Resilience:

Research has shown that stable, caring relationships with adults and strong social connections can help to mitigate the long-term negative effects of childhood trauma. These so-called "protective factors" also include education, community support programs for parents and families, and access to a safe, stable environment.

Talk To Your Kids:

Children can be their own best advocates, as long as they have been taught what to look for and that it's OK to speak up. Teach your kids what to do if they are experiencing abuse or know someone who is. Most importantly, talk to your kids regularly: Know what's going on in their lives and who they are spending time with outside of the home.

Expand Your Parenting Skills:

No parent is perfect, and that's a good thing. But there are things all of us can do to increase our effectiveness and promote healthy behaviors in our young people:

Discipline for growth: The root of the word discipline is "to teach." Strive to choose consequences that will help your children to learn and grow, rather than just provide a punishment.

Be a good example: How you deal with anger, sadness and frustration is the way your kids will deal with these difficult emotions, too. Model how to express emotions appropriately, in a way that addresses the problem but doesn't harm others.

Take a break: "Taking a timeout" is a technique that can be just as useful for adults as it is for children. If you feel yourself getting extremely angry or upset, resolve to address the issue only when you are calm and able to communicate clearly.

Find support: There are a plethora of resources available to parents or those who work with children in their communities, from parenting classes to support groups to educational materials. Access these resources to improve your parenting skills, find caregiver support, and improve your relationships with your children and those around you.

For more information visit Child Welfare Information Gateway.

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