How to put an end to child abuse
Vail CO, Colorado
A recent study estimates that a child dies of abuse or neglect every six hours (www.childabuse.org). However, this statistic doesn’t include the seemingly uncountable numbers where a child or adolescent suffers from a welt or bruise, a black eye, a burn, or even a broken bone. This statistic doesn’t account for the emotional scarring that occurs from a conflict that was either witnessed or engaged in and how this scar will continue to present itself in every interaction the child has for the rest of his or her life.
Current research is finding that our brains develop around the experiences we have. We then draw upon these past experiences in our daily interactions with others. A child who experiences trauma, in the form of name-calling, being slapped or hit, or inconsistencies in his or her daily life, may have these patterns reoccur in their daily behavior. However, the pattern may present itself in very different behavior than what was witnessed and is typically quite dysfunctional.
One thing that is vital to the healthy development of Eagle County’s children is the elimination of child abuse. In order for this to happen, parents can employ simple and effective methods to prevent such acts. It is important to remember that a parent’s No. 1 goal in life is to raise their child to the best of their ability. Part of that means taking breaks when the job of parenting becomes too tiresome or emotionally draining.
Know your limits and do not test them. Ask yourself and make a list of things that trigger you and how you may typically react. When you see one of these triggers presenting themselves, walk away and revisit the situation once you have collected your thoughts. Also, never hit or shake your child. A common misconception is that such practices teach children discipline, however, what children learn is that the use of force is OK when things don’t go their way.
The Tennyson Center for Children at Colorado Christian Home and Prevent Child Abuse America recommend various strategies community members can take to help reduce or eliminate child abuse. Their lists start with being a nurturing parent and a helpful friend, neighbor or relative. Leading by example and caring for someone’s child while the parent is emotionally unavailable are key components to living in a community free of child abuse. They also recommend helping develop parenting resources at the local library or promoting programs in schools. They report “teaching children, parents and teachers prevention strategies can help to keep children safe.” In addition, community members can volunteer to be foster parents for children who don’t have the opportunity to grow up in a loving and disciplined environment.
While parenting is not an easy task, it is a decision that everyone with children has made. With this decision comes the responsibility of keeping one’s wits about him or her and seeing the difficult times through with care and thoughtfulness. What is more, through the elimination of child abuse in our community we give not only our children a chance to grow and become productive members of society, we give our children’s children that same opportunity. If you would like more information on child abuse and/or neglect, or becoming a foster parent, please contact the Eagle County Department of Health and Human Services at (970) 328-8840.
Nicholas Hoeger works in the Eagle County Health and Human Services Department.