April is Child Abuse Awareness month. What does it mean to be aware of child abuse? How do we recognize the signs of a child being abused? How can we break the cycle in our families? What does open communication look like with our children?
According to the American Society for the Positive Care of Children, 1720 children died from abuse and neglect in 2017 and 72 percent of all child fatalities were younger than 3 years old. Everyone should remember the recent death of Baby Anthony. He was tragically killed at the hands of his father. What were the signs this poor little baby was being abused? Possibly there were unexplained bruising; change in behavior, such as withdrawing from friends and family; injuries that don’t match the given explanation. If you see something suspicious, you need to say something. Anthony’s life could possibly have been saved!
Child abuse is not only physical. It can be sexual or emotional in nature. Sometimes those signs are not as visible as physical abuse and harder to detect. According to the Mayo clinic possible signs of sexually abused children can be sexual behavior that’s inappropriate for the child’s age, inappropriate sexual contact with other children, wetting the bed after having been fully potty-trained. Emotional abuse is usually demonstrated through feelings such as depression, social withdrawal, loss of previously acquired developmental skills, and a decrease in school performance or loss of interest in school.
What if abuse is a cultural and/or familial issue? How do we break the cycle? One way is to be open with other family members about past abuse. Many families have secrets but those secrets continue to spread, infecting the whole system. When a child is abused in the family everyone might seem surprised that it happened, but the signs and predictive factors were already present. If you want to protect your children, speak up! Your children should know they can tell you anything, even if something is happening with a family member. Creating a safe environment for sharing Is key to breaking the cycle of abuse in a family.
“Your children will become who you are; so be who you want them to be.”
About the Author: Molly McCann, LPC-S
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