April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month
Child abuse is a touchy subject. Sane, rational people agree that it’s a bad thing. However, sometimes it can be trickier to spot abuse than you might think. Additionally, given heightened awareness on this topic in the last couple of decades, there is also a fear that people will jump to conclusions.
There are many different kinds of abuse, but the three that are commonly acknowledged are: sexual, physical, and mental. For the most part these are what they sound like. However, many people don’t realize that negligence and neglect can also be forms of abuse. I personally know several people who were abused as children, everything from being molested, to being left alone without food in the house for extended periods of time.
On the other hand I also know people who have had social services alerted by their child’s doctor and been rigorously examined only to have people apologize to them when it was finally discovered that absolutely no child abuse of any kind was happening but that the child in question was borderline for Asperger’s and the doctor hadn’t diagnosed it.
Here are some steps you can take to prevent or identify abuse to your child.
1. Talk with your kids. You don’t have to terrify them, but make them aware of the risks of strangers, and also let them know they can come to you at any time if they don’t feel comfortable with a person or an activity, even if family members are involved.
2. Be alert to dangers inside your home and community. A great many children are abused in some way by people that are friends or family. Closely monitoring interactions can help reduce this risk. Also, make sure you know whether there are any known sexual predators in your community.
3. Monitor your child’s behavior. Notice if your child’s behavior changes. Also pay attention to who they don’t like or avoid. Sometimes children might not come out and tell you if something or someone scares them, but if you learn to watch your child’s behavior, you should be able to start to clue in to how they feel about different people, places, and situations.
4. If you suspect that your child is being abused, alert the police and seek the help of a trained therapist.
Safeguarding our children is an important responsibility. Keeping open lines of communication with your kids can help prevent many problems and can also alert you if there is something that needs your attention. Don’t raise your child in a state of perpetual fear, because that’s not healthy either. The most important thing you can do is be honest, open, and pay attention to what they say…and what they don’t.