Loving Hands, Kind Words
Sleepless nights, endless temper tantrums, stress, etc. may cause you to lose your patience with your child. However, they are never a reason or excuse to hurt a child.

According to the National Clearinghouse on Child Abuse and Neglect Information, the first step are to understand the problem, terms and causes. Child abuse and neglect affect children of all ages, races, and incomes. Nearly one million cases of child abuse or neglect are reported in the United States every year -- that's 15 out of every 1,000 children. It encompasses physical abuse, physical or emotional neglect, sexual abuse and emotional abuse. Most parents don't hurt or neglect their children intentionally. A history of abuse, drugs and alcohol abuse, and extraordinary stress can lead to child maltreatment.

Support programs that support families, like parent education, community centers, respite care services and substances placing families at risk. If you suspect a child is being abused or neglected, call the police or your local child welfare agency.

Help educate others in your community about child abuse and neglect and strengthen the fabric of your community. Know your neighbors' names and the names of their children. Give stressed parents a break by offering to watch their children or bring over a dinner. Join a playgroup or parent support group to discuss parenting challenges and strains. Offer suggestions to cope to parenting stresses, like putting yourself in time out, listening to relaxing music or watering the plants (or sing the National Anthem as loud as you can like my friend Tonya).

Be ready in an emergency. We'll all witnessed the "screaming child in the supermarket" scenario. Most parents take the typical tantrum in stride. But what if you witness a scene -- in the supermarket or anywhere else -- where you believe a child is being, or is about to be, physically or verbally abused? The Prevent Child Abuse America suggests the following:
  • Talk to the adult to get their attention away from the child and be friendly.
  • Say something like, "Children can really wear you out, can't they?" or "My child has done the same thing."
  • Ask if you can help in any way -- could you carry some packages? Play with an older child so the baby can be fed or changed? Call someone on your cell phone?
  • If you see a child alone in a public place -- for example, unattended in a grocery cart -- stay with the child until the parent returns.
Most importantly, remember that prevention begins at home. Take time to re-evaluate your parenting skills. Be honest with yourself -- are you yelling at your children a lot? Do you enjoy being a parent at least most of the time? If you could benefit from some help with parenting, seek it -- getting help when you need it is essential part of being a good parent. Talk to a professional you trust, take a parenting class, or read a book about child development.

For more resources, you can visit your local child protection agency, Preventing Child Abuse America or Parents Anonymous for more information. Finally, help our kids by parenting with loving hands and kind words.

by Dorren Morehouse