April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month. All adults play a role in building the safe, stable, nurturing homes and environments needed for the healthy development of our future generation of parents, leaders, and community members. So, how can you help?
Know what to look for
There can be physical indicators and behavioral changes in a child that create cause for alarm. If you notice unexplained bruises or marks, consistent injuries, unexplained wounds, poor hygiene, or unattended physical problems, these can all be signs that a child is being neglected. Any combination of these concerns should encourage you to speak up and ensure the safety and well-being of the child.
Know what to say
It may seem impossible to find the words when you suspect a child is being abused. Sometimes, you may not need to say anything at all. You just need to listen. Let the child know you support them as their ally.
Some helpful tips to begin the conversation or sustain communication include:
- Using age-appropriate language
- Remaining calm and reminding them they are safe
- Reminding them they are not in trouble
- Using phrases of affirmation and reassurance
Know what to do
Supporting the child and letting them know you are there for them is important. But you also need to act in the interest of their safety. Call a child advocacy center or national abuse hotline near you. Doing so ensures they are safe and can be safely removed from the abusive environment, if needed.
Child abuse can have a long-lasting and devastating impact on the child, including feelings of confusion, anxiety, and distress. Once the child is removed from harm’s way, you can help them get the help they need. Valley Oaks Health offers children’s counseling that can help them move forward and heal from the trauma they’ve experienced.