Child Abuse Prevention Month Issues Discussed in Highland County – Part 2
In part two of our story on Child Abuse Prevention Month, the Director of the Highland County Department of Social Services, Sarah Rexrode, concludes with specific ways to recognize, prevent, and cope with child abuse and neglect.
Ms. Rexrode says, “You can prevent child abuse by being engaged. Child abuse is not just limited to physically harming a child. It includes neglect, sexual abuse, and mental abuse. If you suspect a child is being abused or neglected, you should call your local department of social services, or you can call the 24-hour child abuse hotline at 800-552-7096. If you see a family struggling, encourage them to seek help. Learn the signs of trauma in adults. If you know an adult who uses substances to self-medicate, retreats from family and friends, appears withdrawn or is not fully engaged during conversations, is unable to control their moods and has emotional outbursts, moves without energy and lack of concentration, appears shaken or disoriented and has nightmares or flashbacks, they are likely suffering from trauma. Knowing the signs of trauma will help you provide appropriate support for them and assist them in getting professional help, so that it doesn’t lead to abuse and neglect of their children down the road.
“Children do often disclose abuse and neglect to trusted adults. If a child does disclose abuse or neglect to you, you should be respectful, attentive, and supportive. Do not promise them that you will keep the information between the two of you, because, often, you’re not able to do that, and do not press the child for details. Don’t blame them or try to investigate the situation yourself. Contact your local department of social services for help.
“There are some things that parents can do at home to prevent abuse. Ensure that your children are getting enough sleep. I know that sounds pretty simple, but children and adolescents who lack quality sleep may do poorly in school, behave more negatively, struggle to reach developmental milestones and experience difficulties in reaching their potential. Be a parent who pays attention. Take time to turn off your electronic devices, and engage with your child. Teach your child to be nonviolent. Violent behavior is often learned at a young age. Children learn how to act by watching you, so it’s important that, as parents, you teach by example. Know what to expect from your child at different ages. Parenting “tweens” and teens can be difficult, because they are naturally resisting rules and authority. Help them find the words to express their feelings, and emphasize the behavior that you expect from them and be willing to enforce consequences when those behaviors do not happen. Provide adequate supervision. Know where your child is and whom he or she is spending time with. Enroll your child in positive extracurricular activities. Social media can be both beneficial and dangerous for children. Set rules and boundaries, and have daily access to your child’s social media outlets.
“If you’re a new mother, recognize the symptoms and signs of postpartum depression, and seek help if you think that you may be suffering from that. Parents who live apart can raise their children together. Co-parenting does require effective communication, cooperation, and commitment. If you’re a single parent, choose your partner wisely to protect your child. If you notice mood swings, controlling or jealous behavior, drug or alcohol use, violent behavior toward you or your child, there is a significant increased risk that your child will be harmed. Take care of yourself as a parent. Eat regular, healthy meals. Stay organized, and befriend other parents with children. Exercise. Know and learn how to talk to your children about traumatic events. We can and should find ways to ensure safe and positive childhoods. Together, we can unite and prevent the abuse and neglect of children in our community.”
To learn more, the Highland County Department of Social Services can be reached at 540-468-2199 and at 158 Courthouse Lane in Monterey.