April is National Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention Awareness Month

Monday, April 9, 2012

Supporting families by ensuring parents have the knowledge, skills, and resources they need is an effective way to protect children from the risk of child abuse and neglect. What do we know about protecting children? • When a parent treats a child with respect, love, and understanding, it affects the child for a lifetime—making it easier to develop and keep friendships, succeed in school and work, sustain a happy relationship, and parent effectively. • Unfortunately, many factors can limit parents' ability to protect and nurture their children. These can put families at risk for abuse and neglect. • Certain factors have been shown to serve as buffers against these risks, enhancing parents' coping skills and helping them to raise happy, healthy children, even under stress. • On average, children raised in households headed by two parents in a healthy relationship fare better than children who grow up in other family structures. What are the protective factors that promote healthy families?
The best thing our community can do to protect children is to support healthy families by promoting the following five protective factors: Nurturing and attachment Parents and caregivers who bond with and respond to the basic needs of their babies and young children lay the foundation for a positive and loving relationship. They also stimulate the growth of their child's brain and help their child learn how to interact in positive ways with others. Ways we can promote parental nurturing and attachment during Child Abuse Prevention Month: • Sponsor a workshop on playing with infants and young children. • Provide quiet, private places for mothers to breastfeed and tend to their babies' needs. • Organize a weekend play group for dads. • Recognize local businesses with family-friendly policies, such as flexible work schedules and maternity/paternity leave that give parents time to bond with their children. Knowledge of parenting and of child and youth development Helping parents learn about normal infant, childhood, and teen development will help them understand what to anticipate as their children grow and develop, and what types of support and discipline may work best at each stage. Ways we can enhance knowledge of parenting and of child and youth development: • Suggest parents speak to their children's doctor about any concerns, frustrations, or questions regarding behavior or development. • Ask your local school district or faith community to sponsor classes and support programs for new parents. • Organize a parenting club to discuss parenting books, websites, and other resources. • Educate childcare providers and teachers about key aspects of child development and the relationship between effective parenting and brain development. Parental resilience Parenting can be stressful, especially when parents are also managing work demands or unemployment, financial worries, illness, or difficulties with a spouse or others. Parents who have support and skills for managing stress will be better able to cope with day-to-day challenges. Ways we can strengthen parental resilience: • Organize a neighborhood group that will rotate cooking a meal or performing light housework for new parents and other families under stress. • Start a neighborhood "work out" group, where families can exercise and have fun together. • Teach a communication class for couples. • Provide brochures and other resources for teachers and childcare providers to share with parents who are under significant stress. Social connections For most of us, family, friends, and neighbors form a network that provides social interaction, recreation, advice, and help. When parents have the opportunity to interact with, learn from, and seek the support of other adults, their children benefit. Ways we can build social connections in our community: • Sponsor multigenerational activities like picnics and street fairs that reflect the community's culture through music, food, and games. Involve parents in organizing these events. • Help recruit volunteers for mentoring programs such as Big Brothers Big Sisters. • Provide venues for young families to meet and socialize, such as libraries, parks, and preschools. Concrete supports for parents When parents are not employed or face other challenges, they may need assistance in order to provide adequate food, clothing, housing, and medical care for their children. These supports may reduce the stress parents feel in difficult circumstances, giving them more energy to nurture and support their children. Ways we can promote concrete supports: • Provide information on how to access housing, health care, or employment assistance. • Educate candidates and elected officials about issues in your community and the need for services and programs that support healthy and safe children and families. • Encourage service providers to collaborate, leverage funding, and share resources to address specific needs. Anything you do to support kids and parents in your family and community helps reduce the likelihood of child abuse and neglect.

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