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Preventing Further Abuse

Suggestions from the Child Welfare League of America

* Volunteer your time. Get involved with other parents in your community. Help vulnerable children and their families. Start a playgroup.
* Discipline your children thoughtfully. Never discipline your child when you are upset. Give yourself time to calm down.
* Remember that discipline is a way to teach your child.
* Use privileges to encourage good behavior and time-outs to help your child regain control.
* Examine your behavior. Abuse is not just physical. Both words and actions can inflict deep, lasting wounds.
* Be a nurturing parent. Use your actions to show children and other adults that conflicts can be settled without hitting or yelling.
* Educate yourself and others. Simple support for children and parents can be the best way to prevent child abuse.
* After-school activities, parent education classes, mentoring programs, and respite care are some of the many ways to keep children safe from harm. Be a voice in support of these efforts in your community.
* Teach children their rights. When children are taught they are special and have the right to be safe, they are less likely to think abuse is their fault, and more likely to report an offender.
* Support prevention programs. Too often, intervention occurs only after abuse is reported.
* Greater investments are needed in programs that have been proven to stop the abuse before it occurs -- such as family counseling and home visits by nurses who provide assistance for newborns and their parents.
* Know what child abuse is. Physical and sexual abuse clearly constitute maltreatment, but so does neglect, or the failure of parents or other caregivers to provide a child with needed food, clothing, and care.
* Children can also be emotionally abused when they are rejected, berated, or continuously isolated.
* Know the signs. Unexplained injuries aren't the only signs of abuse-depression.
* Fear of a certain adult, difficulty trusting others or making friends, sudden changes in eating or sleeping patterns, inappropriate sexual behavior, poor hygiene, secrecy, and hostility are often signs of family problems and may indicate a child is being neglected or physically, sexually, or emotionally abused.
* Report abuse. If you witness a child being harmed or see evidence of abuse, or if a child tells you about abuse, make a report to your state's child protective services department or local police.
* When talking to a child about abuse, listen carefully, assure the child that he or she did the right thing by telling an adult, and affirm that he or she is not responsible for what happened.
* Invest in Kids. Encourage leaders in the community to be supportive of children and families. Ask employers to provide family-friendly work environments. Ask your local and national lawmakers to support legislation to better protect our children and to improve their lives.

Stressed out? Wondering what to do? It does happen. Caring for children is sometimes a difficult task. Discipline is especially challenging. Here are some ideas that can help:

** Talk about feelings. Take your child's feelings seriously and work through them.
** Use firm communication. Say what you mean, and mean what you say.
** Model the behavior that you desire in them. Children learn from what they see and hear.
** Encourage your children often and recognize each one's personal best.
** Use "time-out" balanced with "time-in." Remember, discipline is a verb meaning "to teach."

New Parents

What can you do to relieve your tension when the baby cries incessantly? There are specific ways to get through this time, and they're important to learn. With extreme frustration, the temptation is to grab and shake the baby--which can result in permanent brain damage.
Don't get to this point. Have a plan ready to help take care of yourself.
The first step is to let go of assigning fault in the situation.
"Don't blame the baby--she can't help it," says Katherine Gordy Levine, a psychotherapist and author of Parents are People Too (Penguin Books, 1997). "Don't blame yourself. You are doing the best you can."
Levine, who has advised parents and been a foster parent, offers specific ideas:

* Sleep when you can. "Priorities at this stage should be feeding yourself, feeding your baby, changing her, and sleeping," she says.
* Use self-soothing exercises, such as deep breathing and visualization.
* Arrange for time away from the baby. Hire a sitter, exchange babysitting, or call helpful relatives and trusted friends to babysit.
* When you are alone with baby and cannot comfort her, put her in her crib, make sure she is safe, and without leaving the house, get away from the screaming. Play comforting music or take a shower.
* If you're in a new place or can't reach your helpers and feel you're going to become abusive, call or go to a neighborhood church or synagogue for help.
* Use a slogan to help you get them through these times. "My all-time favorite is 'Now is not forever,'" says Levine. She adds: "Be patient. You and your baby will survive and eventually even thrive."

Almost every new parent or caregiver of a baby has experienced a long bout with a crying baby. Some call the baby "colicky," some call her "cranky," but no matter what the name, it can be very difficult on even the most patient parent.

Information contained in this section is provided as a service to parents. Readers should consult with professionals regarding their specific questions and circumstances.

Easy Disciplining

"Stop that crying, or I'll give you something to cry about!"
If you heard this as a child, you're not alone. What was once seen as an acceptable way to speak to a child has, fortunately, fallen out of fashion.
But there are those days. Cranky kids who will be satisfied by nothing. Children acting "spoiled." Kids pushing the limits of what they can get away with. Whether the child is 2 or 15 doesn't matter. It's frustrating, even anger-provoking, for a parent.
There are answers, and they don't involve special education or hours of learning. Once put in place, they have a double bonus: they make parenting easier. These ideas are not in a particular order; they all work together.

*** Take care of yourself. A parent who is healthy and at least relatively happy is a better parent. If you aren't in that situation, that's no excuse to treat the child differently, but take a look at which measures you can take to enjoy your life more. This will help you be more patient and loving when dealing with discipline.
*** Understand the environment. Children are much more likely to be cranky in certain situations: very hot/cold weather, a stressful day at school/daycare, on vacation, when there is family tension, when bored, hungry, thirsty, etc.; and anytime their normal routine is altered. This does not excuse any form of behavior, but put your discipline in context. If you've been at the mall all day, your young child probably does feel like squalling. Don't we all sometimes?
*** Give clear, consistent expectations and consequences. If a child "gets away with murder" at a family reunion and then is whipped for speaking up at the dinner table, he will grow up confused and distrusting of adults--and, if spanked, is shown by research to be more likely to be violent himself as an adult. Set clear, fair guidelines. Explain them in a way each child will understand. Tell them the consequences, and enforce them. If you're having difficulty enforcing them, it might be because you aren't consistent or that the consequences are too harsh.

Understand the way children are supposed to act for their age.

**** Save yourself unnecessary grief. An example is trying to teach an exploring toddler by slapping a little hand when they get close to an electrical outlet. It's all right to point to an outlet and explain to a child that it is "very hot," and will "hurt" and is a no-no. But childproof your home! Ask the grandparents to do so as well, and expect daycare to have childproofing already in place.
**** With a curious teen exploring the ways of the adult world, why not lock up the liquor cabinet? Or decide to have cocktails only when you're out to dinner and never at home. Talk to your teen about drugs in a non-lecturing way. Be sure to have that all-important talk about responsible sexual behavior. This conversation would ideally start at an early age, as soon as a child begins asking about her/his body parts. Many things for which we discipline our children are easily avoided!
**** Encourage during the good times. Praise your child when he or she is doing what's right. Don't overdo it, with a compliment about every little thing the child does, or it will become less meaningful. The old adage is true: it's easier to catch flies with honey rather than with vinegar.
**** Don't assume or use assuming phrases. A classic line is, "You know better!" Most of the time, a child does not! Avoid general phrases that parents have used forever. Explain your disappointment using "I" phrases, telling how you feel.
**** Discuss the behavior, not the person. It breaks anyone's spirit to think they are inherently bad. Imagine if you were at work and the boss said, "It's not that the project is that hard--you're just stupid!" Yet we speak that way to our children when we say, "You're a brat today!" or "Johnny is better than you! Why can't you behave?"
**** Decompress before you get home. If you work outside the home, don't let your work troubles, the commute and other hassles bring you to the exploding point when you get home. Remember, your child has also spent a full day in daycare or school. He has had stress, too. Let your home be a gentle, safe haven for your family. That's the way to create warm memories and build a loving family.

Information contained in this section is provided as a service to parents. Readers should consult with professionals regarding their specific questions and circumstances.

Help Your Kids Stay Safe While Surfing On-Line

***** Children should never give out their full name, address, phone number, or where they attend school to anyone they do not know without a parent’s permission. Remind your children everything about them is their private information.
***** Explain to your children why it is important not to volunteer information to any company or individual.
Warn children that even reputable-looking web sites might not be what they appear to be, nor as friendly as they appear to be. Explain that someone might not be who he says he is online. Teach your children how to be web-savvy.
***** Offer to be with your child when he or she is online.
***** Investigate software tools that restrict sensitive personal information from being transmitted online, and tools that screen out material you don't want your children to see.


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