20 Apr Child Abuse Prevention Month: Pandemic Edition
Normally for Child Abuse Prevention Month the staff at ReadyKids brainstorm an event. In the past, the event brought together community leaders to think about how to prevent child abuse in the Charlottesville area. We’ve done garden pinwheel events among the tulips with city councilors and press coverage. We’ve placed pinwheel gardens through our local neighborhoods. But this year, in the midst of a pandemic, everything is different.
It would be remiss of us not to address the dynamics most families are now facing at home. Before the pandemic, child welfare experts knew that isolation, stress and financial uncertainty were all contributing factors to child abuse. Now, nearly every family in America is experiencing all three of these. It’s a perfect storm. Even the calmest parents and caregivers are struggling. You’re not alone.
WORDS OF GRACE
Research shows that the persistent stress caused by this fear, isolation and economic hardship can be detrimental to a child’s healthy development. Stress also exponentially increases rates of child abuse and domestic violence. We know that all parents and caregivers want what’s best for their kids, especially in the midst of chaotic times such as these. Our counselors and educators have these words of grace to offer you today:
Keep it Simple.
Focus on what you can do to stay collected and calm, not anything that adds to your already very full workload. If kids don’t get all of their online learning done, but they got at least three hugs from you today, then that’s what you all needed.
Negative Feelings are Okay.
Negative feelings are a natural reaction to what’s going on right now. Tell your kids you’re frustrated or angry – they likely are too. Hone your ‘I feel …” statements and work on them together. Modeling your own emotional resilience helps them to know what to do.
Talk to someone.
We are social beings in an age of social distancing. No one was meant to raise kids alone in a house. It’s supposed to take a village, remember? Strong relationships are perhaps more important now than ever before. You may want to talk to a staff member at ReadyKids that you already know. We’d be so, so happy to hear from you! You may not know anyone at ReadyKids. We’d still be happy to hear from you! You can reach someone immediately through our 24/7 Teen Crisis Hotline, or you can e-mail a staff member and they’ll get back to you as soon as possible. Or, call your mom, Facebook message a high school friend, or go outside and talk to your neighbor from 6-feet away. The important thing is that you have SOMEONE to talk to, even if it’s someone you haven’t talked to in a while. We’re all eager for connection. Reach out.
Find a Healthy Coping Strategy that Works for You.
You’re probably feeling what psychologists call “emotional reactivity,” which means your reaction to something is bigger than you’d like it to be. Your emotions feel more intense. This is normal under times of stress. Studies from big universities like Johns Hopkins and Harvard show that taking a few minutes (sometimes even 10 seconds) to be quietly aware of your surroundings helps to reduce emotional reactivity, and in turn reduces feelings of stress. Some people love daily walks. Some like yoga, or meditation, or just laying on their bed like a wet noodle for a minute or two. Anything that helps calm your own nervous system so you can face the stressors of the day will be a benefit not only to you, but to your children as well.
RESOURCES WE LOVE
Here’s also a few resources we love right now that help stop a tough parenting moment from turning into an impossible parenting moment. We tried to pick the resources that we use not only as professionals, but also as parents and caregivers. They are simple and get to the emotional heart of what makes these ‘quarantine moments’ with kids so difficult.
- Child Welfare: Handling Temper Tantrums
- Child Welfare: Managing Stress
- Zero to Three: STOP Strategy for Mindfulness While Caring for Small Children
- How to Stop a Tantrum (a helpful infographic)
- The Story of the Oyster and the Butterfly: Coronavirus and Me. A free book to read with your kids about how Oysters and Butterflies use times of distress and isolation to make something beautiful, and how you can do the same (English version, Spanish version)
- Coronavirus Resources for Children, Parents and Others
VIRTUAL CHILD ABUSE PREVENTION PINWHEEL GARDEN
Though we cannot plant pinwheels together this year, we still wanted to create a Pinwheel Garden to symbolize the great childhoods that we want for all children. So this year we will be creating a “Virtual Pinwheel Garden” and showing you all how to create your own Pinwheels so that you too can be a part of our Pinwheel Garden. Check out this video of Shelley Faulkner, ReadyKids Trauma Counselor, and her son Ellis making pinwheels out of materials they found at home!
We would love to see pictures of your homemade pinwheels! Send them to Kristin Sancken and she will post it on ReadyKids’ social media!