NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. â€” April is Child Abuse Prevention Month. Since 1983, the month has been set aside by presidential proclamation to advocate for the safety and welfare of children, expressed in a blue ribbon awareness campaign. That need for advocacy is just as great now.
According to the National Maternal and Child Health Center for Child Death Review, more than 2,000 children in the U.S. die each year in reported incidents of child abuse and neglect. The center estimates the actual number of incidents is far higher than the reported number. In perspective, more than five kids in this country will die today as a result of child abuse and neglect.
Equally alarming, according to a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services 2006 study, victims of child abuse will be 80 percent more likely to have psychological disorders, substance abuse addictions and violent behaviors. Abuse creates a tragic, multi-generational cycle.
Nearly all parents want to do the best they can by their children, but often times donâ€™t have the right information to make good decisions.Â It can be frightening to reach outside to learn new parenting tools. However, reaching out for help is not a sign of weakness â€“ itâ€™s a sign of maturity and desire to be a better parent.
Kids need nurturing and attachment â€“ developing bonds in early childhood between a child and caring adults â€“ and these needs affect all aspects of behavior and development. As children grow and learn to socialize, relate and communicate, it is easier for parents to respond in a positive and caring way when a positive bond exists. However, when that bond is inhibited by factors such as special needs, social factors, job stress, poor nutrition or other conditions, the parent may need additional support.
This is where knowledge of parenting and child development and parental resilience come in. Parents need knowledge of what to expect during a childâ€™s development to become able to respond with effective, age-appropriate parenting strategies, and to learn how to model appropriate behavior.
Through knowledge, parents become able to handle the daily stresses of parenting, recognize triggers, and recover when crises arise by anticipating stresses or reaching out to helping resources or organizations to cope. The knowledge helps them avoid aggressive behaviors or withdrawal that lead to abuse and neglect, which could have life-altering consequences.
Establishing healthy social connections and concrete supports through helping resources eases the burden of parenting by connecting parents with those who can help them. These include everything from just having an â€œunderstanding someoneâ€ to vent to, to reaching out to professionals who can provide informed advice, parenting classes or counseling to help deal with stress.
Another factor in preventing abuse is developing the social and emotional competence of children â€“ the childâ€™s own ability to identify, express and cope with their emotions effectively. In most cases, the way that a child is deals with his or her own feelings and relationships will be modeled directly from parents. Learning effective parenting and ways to cope with stress is essential and greatly reduces family conflict.
It is important to remember that we influence our children in everything we do. In the end, children donâ€™t come with instruction manuals, so parents should never be too proud to say, â€œI need help!â€
The Family Advocacy Program encourages our community to wear the blue ribbon and make the mission of protecting our children a personal one.
The Nellis Family Advocacy program offers free classes on anger and stress management, parenting, couples communication and dating awareness. Contact Family Advocacy at 702-653-3880 for more information.