April is Child Abuse Prevention Month. Let us use this time to reflect on this problem and to recognize the importance of good parenting.
The Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act is a federal law that broadly defines child abuse and neglect as any recent act or failure to act by a parent or caretaker that results in death, serious physical or emotional harm, sexual abuse, exploitation or presents an imminent risk of serious harm. Commonly recognized forms of maltreatment include physical abuse, sexual abuse, psychological abuse and neglect. It is also important to note, in the majority of cases, the abuse is committed by someone the child knows.
With the abuse occurring while the victim is still socially, physically and emotionally developing, it has many negative outcomes both immediate and long term. Some effects can last into adulthood. Victims of child abuse or neglect are more likely to report poor physical health, poor emotional and mental health, behavioral problems, have difficulty developing attachments to others, trust issues, cognitive dysfunction and engage in high-risk behaviors. A 2007 study conducted by Prevent Child Abuse America estimated that child abuse and its ramifications cost the United States $103.8 billion every year.
It is not always easy to spot child abuse; and for various reasons, children are not always forthcoming when abuse occurs. As parents, certain physical or behavioral changes in your child (or another child you may know) may alert you that something is wrong. These include injuries that cannot be explained, genital pain or bleeding, sexually transmitted diseases, fearful behavior, bedwetting, runaway attempts, extreme or age inappropriate sexual behavior, sudden change in self-confidence, unexplainable headaches, unexplainable stomach aches, more nightmares, abnormal fears, school failure and dramatic changes in weight or appetite.
If you suspect child abuse or neglect is occurring, contact the Child Protection Hot Line number, 1-877-KYSAFE1 (1-877-597-2231). The Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services website contains area phone numbers, frequently asked questions and other important information related to child abuse and neglect. You can access it at http://chfs.ky.gov/dcbs/dpp/.
Child abuse prevention efforts should start at home by nurturing, caring and protecting our children, particularly in early childhood. When your child misbehaves, it is important that you manage your feelings of frustration and anger without venting them on him/her.
Effective discipline strategies include teaching your child about potential consequences to their actions. These consequences could be natural like telling your child if they continue to throw their toys the toy will eventually break and they will not have it to play with anymore. They can also be logical consequences that you enact. For example, “If I have to pick up your toys, you cannot play with them for the rest of the day.”
Another effective discipline method is withholding privileges or things your child really enjoys, like watching TV or playing on a tablet. Time-out is also an effective form of discipline as long as the child understands the rules ahead of time.
Spanking is not recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics. Research has shown adults who were spanked as kids are more likely to experience depression, use alcohol, exhibit more anger, hit their own children and spouses and engage in crime and violence at higher rates than adults who were not spanked as children.
For more information on preventing child abuse in your community and raising healthy children, contact the Whitley County Cooperative Extension Service at 549-1430; visit the office located in Cumberland Regional Mall, 965 S. Highway 25W, Williamsburg, Monday-Friday, 8 A.M.-12 P.M. and 1-4:30 P.M.; or e-mail at DL_CES_WHITLEY@EMAIL.UKY.EDU.