Prevent child abuse

Letter to the editor

Posted: Friday, April 16, 2004

The greatest gift a parent can give their children is a healthy relationship in which they act as a role model. Yet, it isn't always possible for them to give this gift. Many factors can get in the way of positive parenting, including lack of preparation or knowledge of critical issues surrounding parenting, financial or other environmental stresses, difficulty in relationships, stress of single parenting, and depression or other mental health problems. Parents' lack of understanding of their children's developmental stages, and unreasonable expectations for their abilities, along with limited ideas of how to effectively discipline their children, can sometimes lead to harsh punishment or neglect of critical needs at each stage of a child's development.

April is Child Abuse Prevention Month. The goal of child abuse prevention is simple - to stop child abuse and neglect from happening in the first place, sparing children and families a great deal of emotional and physical trauma and decreasing the need for costly intervention and treatment services. In 2003, there were 14,297 reports of harm to Alaska's children. The short and long term consequences of child abuse may include brain damage, developmental delays, learning disorders, problems forming relationships, aggressive behavior and depression. Survivors of child abuse and neglect may be at greater risk for problems later in life such as low academic achievement, drug use, teen pregnancy, and criminal behavior. And the good news is that supporting families and providing parents with the skills and resources they need, can prevent child abuse and neglect and save taxpayers lots of money in later interventions.

Prevention efforts build on family strengths. Through prevention activities such as parent education, home visitation, and parent support groups, many families are able to find the support they need to stay together and care for their children in their homes and communities. Prevention efforts help parents develop their parenting skills, understand the benefits of nonviolent discipline techniques, and understand and meet their child's emotional, physical, and developmental needs. Prevention programs also can help parents identify other needs they may have and offer assistance in getting that additional support.

Child Abuse Prevention Month is an opportunity to highlight the role we all can play to support parents and families. This month - and throughout the year as we consider child abuse prevention - our attention is best focused on prevention efforts that create healthier environments for children and foster confident, positive parenting.

Edy Rodewald

Program Manager

Healthy Families Juneau



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