Published on March 25th, 2019 | by Deb Wolf0
Child Abuse Prevention: What Can Parents Do?
Current prEvents — March 22, 2019 — The Times Argus
By STEVEN NESS, Family Support Programs Manager at Prevent Child Abuse Vermont
All parents want to be successful at caring for their children. Yet child abuse and neglect are tragic realities within many families in our communities. Each day children are abandoned, neglected, physically or sexually abused, and emotionally abused. Sadly, violence toward children is not new. However, we have made real progress in Vermont learning how to prevent child abuse and neglect.
Parenting patterns are first learned in childhood and tend to be repeated later in life when children become parents. Experiences in childhood impact the attitudes, skills, and ways we parent, but we do not have to repeat the mistakes from our past. We can learn and choose the type of parent we want to be and be very successful at this very important job!
The best way to support healthy parenting is for adults and teenagers to participate in parent education before actually becoming parents or soon after having a child. If we learn about children’s needs and develop positive parenting skills, we can stop passing the cycle of abuse on to the next generation.
Prevent Child Abuse Vermont offers a number of structured, curriculum-based parent education classes, called Nurturing Parenting Programs, as well as Circle of Parents Support Groups for parents and other caregivers. These groups emphasize parenting in the present, learning healthy relationship skills, and empathy.
Parenting is a Process
Becoming a parent is one of the most challenging jobs in the world! It is a lifelong job with round-the-clock demands, frustrations, and curveballs – and often on little sleep. At the same time, being a parent can bring a richness unmatched by any other experience in our lives.
Parenting is a process designed to nourish, protect, and guide a new life through the course of childhood (and beyond). The process of parenting involves four main components:
- Provide and promote physical and mental health;
- Give emotional warmth and nurturance;
- Support opportunities for the development of individuality and intellect; and
- Nurture social and emotional skills.
Children who have strong emotional ties with parents or caregivers who are positive about other people and the world have the best chance to develop their own individual potential.
The Building Blocks of the Parenting Process
How do we achieve our goal of raising healthy, happy children free of abuse and neglect? The following are the building blocks of parenting.
Empathy is critical to the overall growth and wellbeing of every child. Empathy involves trying to put ourselves in the child’s “shoes” and understand how the child feels. Learning to empathize with our children is necessary for healthy growth and development.
Knowledge of Child Development
Good parenting involves knowing what to expect of children at different ages. Children are born into this world entirely dependent upon their parents. As they grow older, their abilities to meet their own needs develop little by little. Knowing what to expect of children as they grow helps us have realistic expectations and be more successful as a parent.
Self-Awareness and Self-Care
Parents must consider their own needs as well as those of their children. Being able to be empathetic to the needs of others requires that we understand our own feelings and needs. Parents whose physical, emotional, social, and intellectual needs are being met are much more prepared to meet the needs of their children.
Love and Respect
Parenting is the process of helping children feel accepted and loved as a person no matter their behavior. Unconditional positive love from a parent communicates to children that, despite their mistakes or accidents, they are still loved and valued.
Parenting is also about respect. Healthy, nurturing parents respect their children as human beings. Children’s feelings, intentions, thoughts, and bodies are held in high regard – not treated as objects to be manipulated. Effective parents talk to their children with the same courtesy and consideration they expect for themselves.
Parents Can Be Actively Involved in Child Abuse Prevention
Having supportive and caring parents and adults is a big factor in creating healthy, resilient children. Similarly, parents who are actively involved in the prevention process can play a big role in keeping their children safe.
Keep communication open
Talking with children and teens sets the stage for a healthy, open relationship. Developing the habit of open communication increases the likelihood that children and teens will come to the adults in their life when something is troubling them or if they need help. With teens, it is especially important to remind ourselves to breathe and listen openly, even if we don’t agree with what they have to say. When they know that adults will listen and not judge them, they are more likely to open up.
Model healthy boundaries
It is important that all children and teens know that personal boundaries are recognized and respected. Let them know that their body is their own and that they can make decisions about how and when they are touched. Not only is it critical to begin talking with our children about boundaries at a young age, it is also critical that we model healthy boundaries. Respect the boundaries they set and make sure others do too. Similarly, talk with them about appreciating others’ boundaries and set limits if they do not seem to respect them.
As adults, we need to understand what abuse and neglect are and how we can be aware of and respond to things that come up in our children’s lives and communities. Being aware and having current information allows us to see potentially troubling behavior by other adults or children and respond appropriately.
PCAVT offers parenting programs as well as training to schools and community groups on how to protect children from sexual abuse. To learn more about ways to support parents and the prevention of child abuse and neglect, please visit our website www. pcavt.org or call 1-800-CHILDREN (800-244-5373).
Current PrEvents is produced by Central Vermont New Directions Coalition as part of the Regional Prevention Partnership grant from the Vermont Department of Health.
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