We want to do all that we can to help both parents and children have peace of mind. Most of the time that means pediatric care for things like broken bones and illness. But we want to do more.
April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month. It is an annual observance in the United States dedicated to raising awareness and preventing child abuse. One thing that we can do to help with child abuse is to educate and build awareness.
In this article, we’ll discuss
- What is child abuse
- Signs to look for
- What you should do
What Is Child Abuse?
Child abuse is any form of mistreatment or intentional harm to a child. There are a lot of ways that this behavior can happen. They include:
- Physical abuse. This is when a child is intentionally physically hurt or put in danger.
- Sexual abuse. This is when there is any type of sexual activity with a child. These actions include touching, fondling, oral-genital contact, intercourse, exploitation, and exposure to pornography.
- Emotional abuse. This abuse is damage to a child’s self-esteem or emotional well-being. These actions include belittling and/or berating a child or isolating, ignoring, or rejecting them.
- Medical abuse. An example of this kind of abuse would be an adult intentionally providing false information about a child’s illness or medical history that puts the child at risk.
- Neglect. A child is neglected when they are not provided with food, shelter, affection, supervision, education, or dental/medical care.
Signs Of Child Abuse
Children are constantly changing so sometimes it can be tough to tell if they are going through normal growing pains or if there is something more serious going on. Especially when it comes to any sort of abuse.
Abused children commonly feel ashamed and try to hide the situation. It’s not something that is easy to talk about. And if the person inflicting the harm is a parent or loved one, it is even more likely to be hidden.
With that being said, there are some signs (from the Mayo Clinic) to be on the lookout for in children. If these describe a young person in your life, some additional digging may need to be done.
- Withdrawal from friends or usual activities
- Changes in behavior — such as aggression, anger, hostility, or hyperactivity — or changes in school performance
- Depression, anxiety or unusual fears, or a sudden loss of self-confidence
- An apparent lack of supervision
- Frequent absences from school
- Reluctance to leave school activities, as if he or she doesn’t want to go home
- Attempts at running away
- Rebellious or defiant behavior
- Self-harm or attempts at suicide
Keep in mind that with different types of abuse come different signs to look for. Here’s a brief look at more specific signs for the different types of abuse that may be happening.
- Physical abuse. Things to look for include injuries that are not explained — bruises, fractures, burns — or don’t match their explanation.
- Sexual abuse. Things to look for include sexual behavior or knowledge that is not normal for the age of the child. You should also be concerned if there is pregnancy, sexually transmitted infection, blood in their underwear, and inappropriate conduct with other kids.
- Emotional abuse. Things to look for include emotional development that is delayed or not appropriate, a loss of self-esteem or confidence, and depression. Other signs to look for are decreased social interest, avoiding certain situations, poor performance in school, and the need for attention.
- Neglect. Things to look for include issues with hygiene, sneaking food or money, missing school. Other signs are weight gain, a lack of proper clothing, and a lack of medical/dental or other care.
- Adult behavior. Kids aren’t the only ones who may show signs that something is going on. Sometimes there are red flags with the parent or adult committing the abuse too. The following warning signs from an adult could be a cause for concern.
- Shows little concern for the child
- Appears unable to recognize physical or emotional distress in the child
- Blames the child for the problems
- Constantly belittles or berates the child, and describes the child with negative terms, such as “worthless” or “evil”
- Expects the child to provide him or her with attention and care and seems jealous of other family members getting attention from the child
- Uses harsh physical discipline
- Demands an inappropriate level of physical or academic performance
- Severely limits the child’s contact with others
- Offers conflicting or unconvincing explanations for a child’s injuries or no explanation at all
Child Abuse Prevention
The best way to deal with child abuse is to take steps to prevent it from happening in the first place. Every child should have a safe, stable environment to learn and grow in. Taking these steps will go a long way towards making that goal a reality.
- Love. This should be obvious, but show love for your child. Nurture them. Listen to them. Stay involved in their life.
- Avoid anger. Do what you can to avoid responding to them in anger. Take a break. Talk to a therapist. Just don’t take it out on a child.
- Supervision. Don’t leave kids unsupervised — especially in public. Get to know the other adults in their lives — babysitters, teachers, coaches, etc.
- When to say no. Teach them to say no. And that it is ok to do so. And if necessary, to leave and seek help when a situation becomes threatening to them.
- Online safety. Kids can get into a whole world of issues on the internet. A good way to limit the risk of this happening is to set up your computer in an open area such as a living room — and not in their bedroom. Communicate so everyone understands the rules. And if something is happening that shouldn’t be (like bullying) — they need to report it.
What You Should Do
If you are worried about a child in your life and think that abuse might be an issue, do not wait to get help. Contact the authorities. The authorities that you may need to contact are the child’s doctor (healthcare professionals are required by law to report suspected cases of child abuse), a local child protective agency, police, or a 24-hour hotline such as Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline (1-800-422-4453). And of course, in an emergency situation, you should call 911.
Just 4 Kids
We strive to deliver health and happiness to children and their families, by embracing our divine potential, serving authentically, nurturing relationships, and creating places of healing. This is true for physical illness, abuse, or anything else that we can do to bring you peace of mind.
As always, please give us a call, text, or come and see us if you have any questions about how to keep a child in your life happy and healthy.