April is Child Abuse Prevention Month

A recent survey conducted by the City-County Health Department shows that child abuse and neglect is one of the top health concerns in Cascade County, and it’s estimated that child abuse costs the United States up to $80 billion per year. Most importantly, child abuse and neglect can have serious, long-term emotional and physical effects on those who experience it. April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month, which is a great time for everyone to learn what they can do to prevent child abuse in our community.

Parents

Parenting is, arguably, the most stressful job anyone will ever have. It’s not uncommon for parents to feel frustrated or overwhelmed. Unfortunately, sometimes these feelings can lead to child maltreatment. When you start to feel this way, step back and follow these tips below:

  • Close your eyes and imagine you are hearing what your child is about to hear.
  • Take a deep breath and count to 10, or even 20.
  • Put yourself in a time-out; think about why you are angry. Is it your child or something else? What are some strategies for dealing with the issue?
  • Call a friend.
  • If someone can watch your children, go outside and take a walk.
  • Leave the room. This can be difficult if your child is crying, but leaving him or her alone in a crib or other secured area for a few moments is better than putting the child in a position where he or she is the target of your frustration.

Often parents just need a quiet moment to sort out their thoughts and feelings. Find a trusted friend, family member, or neighbor that can watch your child for you periodically so you can have a little time to yourself. Parenting may be very stressful, but is can also be very rewarding.

Community Members

Even if they do not have children, every community member can play an important role in preventing child abuse and neglect. Supporting families, friends, neighbors, and their children is extremely important. Offer to help a friend or neighbor with their children by offering to babysit, preparing meals, or donating clothing and toys. Anything you can do to make life less stressful for a parent or guardian can help to prevent abuse or neglect.

Recognizing Abuse

Recognizing child abuse is often quite difficult. Emotional abuse and neglect, and even physical abuse, may leave no visible marks or bruises on a child. The most noticeable signs may be changes in the child’s usual behavior or performance in school. A child may act withdrawn, cautious, frightened, or display attention-seeking behavior. Behavioral changes may depend on the child and type of abuse. The better you get to know the children around you, the easier it will be to spot any signs of abuse or neglect.

Circle of Security

“The Circle of Security is a relationship-based early intervention program designed to enhance attachment security between parents and children.” (www.circleofsecurity.net). Infants and toddlers that form healthy attachments to their caregivers are more likely to have higher self-esteem, better relationships, and perform better in school than those who do not. The Circle of Security can:

  • Help parents raise their children with love, warmth, and emotional intelligence.
  • Connect parents with their infants and toddlers.
  • Break old, destructive patterns of parenting.

Circle of Security training will be offered in Great Falls, free of charge, to anyone interested in attended. This two-day event will take place on May 4 and 5, 2013. Click here for more information.

To learn more about child abuse and neglect, and how you can help prevent it, visit the following sites: