Child Abuse Prevention Month, something to think about 

Published 6:01 am Thursday, April 12, 2018

Every April, you’re likely to see blue and silver pinwheels spinning in the wind along roadways, in parks or outside schools. Teachers reporting to Frankfort may very well see some planted around the Capitol.
Hopefully you know what those pinwheels represent — the lives of children who have been victims of child abuse — displayed during National Child Abuse Prevention Month. If you didn’t know that, this editorial is for you.
The answers to why child abuse is bad are obvious: Abuse causes developmental delays and disabilities; it can cause death; it leads to behavioral and mental health problems; and it teaches children to behave violently themselves, perpetuating the cycle of abuse.
The answers to why child abuse persists, however, are not as obvious.
Children usually won’t come right out and tell adults they’ve been abused, and the signs of abuse can be hard to spot.
There are risk factors for abuse that you can probably guess, such as a family history of abuse, substance abuse and mental health issues. But there are other risk factors you might not be aware of.
Social isolation of a family, parenting stress, having young parents and even the area’s unemployment rate can all be factors that increase the risk for any child to be abused, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
When a small child has been abused once, it’s still possible to intervene and prevent serious, long-term damage to the child’s life. That’s why it’s important to know what signs to look for and say something if you see something.
Any bruises anywhere on the body of a child less than four months old is a big red flag. It’s no guarantee that abuse has occurred, but such bruising means the child should be examined by a doctor thoroughly. Bruising on the torso, ears or neck of any child is also a red flag, as well as bruising in uncommon locations — not the shins, knees, elbows or forehead.
Children who have been abused may exhibit any of the following symptoms, according to the Mayo Clinic: withdrawal from friends or activities; aggression, anger or hostility; hyperactivity; changes in school performance; reluctance to leave school activities; attempts to run away; and attempts at suicide. Again, these symptoms are no guarantee that child abuse has happened — a child may exhibit any one of these symptoms and still have a happy home life. But they are red flags that are behaviors exhibited commonly by children experiencing abuse.
Fortunately, there are also positive factors that can reduce the likelihood of child abuse. The CDC says having stable family relationships, having household rules, having employed parents, and having a network of support outside the child’s immediate family all mean a child is less likely to be abused.
Supportive communities that offer help to parents are also essential. Parenting is not an easy job and it’s often a job that falls on young people who aren’t prepared for the stress. These new parents aren’t bad people and they want to raise healthy children just like everyone else. But their lack of experience and the stresses of parenthood can lead to bad places if they don’t get support and training.
For example, the No. 1 trigger that causes parents to shake a baby is something babies do a lot of: crying. This is an overwhelmingly sad fact, but there’s also a remarkably simple solution: Parents need to know it’s OK to put a baby down on its back in a crib and walk away.
A community that embraces parents, tells them it’s OK to feel overwhelmed, offers them help so they don’t feel so overwhelmed and speaks up the moment they see something that could indicate abuse is a community where abuse is diminishing and healthy, happy children are flourishing.

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