In 1983, President Ronald Reagan proclaimed that April would be National Child Abuse Prevention Month. The tradition has been continuing ever since with President Barack Obama issuing a Presidential proclamation in 2016 to ensure that people continue their efforts to end child abuse.
According to the Center for the Study of Social Policy, there are several protective factors that help to prevent parental child abuse and child neglect. These factors strengthen families and create an environment that promotes healthy child development and behavior. These factors look to reduce and to manage stressors in a parent’s life because an overly stressed parent is more likely to turn abusive.
The first factor is parental resiliency, or how well a parent copes with stress, trauma, and adversity. How parents react to an event is more important than the event itself. A parent who is constantly stressed or frustrated might not respond to their child’s needs properly, warmly or consistently.
The second and third factors are social connections and concrete support in times of need. We all know that humans are social animals. Friends, family and neighbors can provide emotional support, encouragement and hope. They are also resources for loans, help finding a job and suggestions for daycares and doctors. Studies have shown that parents with high levels of support are more positive and less likely to be depressed, angry or anxious.
The fourth factor is knowledge of parenting and child development. Parents should have an understanding of how children develop so if a child is not reaching a developmental milestone, the parent then knows to talk to the child and to go to the doctor in the case of a developmental disorder. Knowledge of how and when children develop also helps parents anticipate what frustrating behaviors to expect. For example, a parent not expecting the “terrible twos” may become overly frustrated and stressed when their two-year-old acts out.
We can all help each other to curb child abuse. Healthy children and healthy families optimize everyone’s potential and quality of life.
Ken Selander is a children’s injury attorney in Seattle who also represents abused children. Ken is passionate about child welfare and children’s issues. He can be reached at 206.723.8200.