Quarantined by COVID? Stuck at home in nasty weather? Laid up, laid off, or otherwise unable to get away from home?
Then watch out for rising tension, one of the most common triggers of child abuse.
When adults (or older siblings) who are stuck at home become stressed, frustrated, and angry, infants and children may bear the brunt of all that tension. We all understand how easily it can happen. We’re tense, making our kids tense, and pretty soon they’re acting up, making us even more tense!
But while it’s understandable, it’s still possible to stop abuse from ever happening in your home.
Here are some powerful steps you can take to protect your children from becoming victims.
Keep Home a Place of Nurturing
Home is supposed to be where family members feel nurtured. And during tough times, both parents and children need that. Let’s look at how your home can nurture all of you.
Children are nurtured when they receive–
- Attention. They want you to look at them more than your phone. They feel special when you talk to them while doing everyday things like cooking or cleaning. And time spent cuddling or reading together at day’s end assures them you believe they’re special.
- Affection. Children crave your loving touch as well as your loving words.
- Healthy food. Well-balanced meals help them feel good and grow strong.
- Routines. Especially in tough times, they need the security of regular mealtimes and naps, and a comforting bedtime routine.
- Screen time limits. Beware of placating a child with screen time for long periods just so you don’t have to be engaged with them. Consider these guidelines. Also, avoid exposing them to violent content. (It’s not that great for parents, either, during tense times.)
- Appropriate expectations. Understand what children your child’s age can/can’t do in order to spare you a lot of frustration.
- Play time. Check out this collection of 70 fun things to do with kids at home.
- Emotional safety. Freedom to appropriately express their feelings, to be heard and validated, helps children process the meaning of their emotions.
- Good role models. Adults who can control themselves–using calm voices, patience, and persistence–show children how to do the same.
Parents, too, need nurturing.
You’ve got a big job to do! So make sure you’re getting–
- Time for self-care. Tending to your own physical and personal needs will equip you to tend to others’.
- Exercise. Motion keeps you flexible and boosts your mood. If your children want to “work out” alongside you, encourage them!
- Healthy food. Just as important for Mom and Dad as it is for kids.
- Relaxation. This is about calming yourself, letting your muscles unwind and your brain focus on the peaceful and the positive. (Avoid merely numbing yourself with substances or screen time. Zoning out sometimes brings new problems.)
- Affirmation. Make time to talk with positive friends or a mentor.
As a parent, you face potentially stressful situations all the time. So arm yourself to face them with our tips on anger management, handling tantrums and dealing with times when your baby won’t stop crying. (Here’s a free poster full of tips for dealing with a crying baby.)
When you and your child feel like you live in a nurturing environment, you are more likely to prevent child abuse from happening in your home.
But no home is blissfully peaceful. So one question remains: What do you do with stress when you feel it?
Address the Stress
Do you know the warning signs of stress? Be on the lookout for symptoms like these:
- Feeling angry, irritable, hopeless, or worried
- Difficulty making decisions
- Crying easily
- Arguing with loved ones
- Overeating (or loss of appetite)
- Oversleeping (or difficulty getting sleep)
When you see signs of stress in yourself or others in your home, deal with it before it gets out of hand. Start with these steps:
- Begin by identifying the real cause of the stress. For example, COVID itself isn’t the stressor (unless a person is infected). But by following COVID prevention guidelines, you may find yourself stressed by things like boredom, isolation, fear, loss of income, or unresolved relationship issues. When you know what’s causing the stress, you can take the right steps to reduce or resolve it.
- Change what you can. Relationship issues? Use our posts here and here to resolve those now. Money concerns? Talk to the folks at the Food Shelf or Ruby’s Pantry, or explore getting SNAP funds through Southwest MN Health and Human Services. Find other kinds of help by calling 211. Sad or fearful? Consider seeking spiritual counsel through a church in your area.
- Accept what you can’t change. Don’t keep banging your head on a brick wall. Instead, decide whether you should get around it or over it, or find a creative way to make the most of it.
- Connect with a strong support network. Re-connect with people who have been positive and supportive in the past. Forge a new connection with a mentor like the Life Coach at Choices Pregnancy Center, whose whole goal is to serve people going through crises.
- Take care of your body, mind, and spirit. Get plenty of exercise and healthy food. Learn something new. Enjoy the outdoors. Listen to music, read a good book. Immerse yourself in your spiritual beliefs. Remember you are here for a purpose and your life matters. You will get through this.
And remember to give yourself grace. Some days you’ll get crabby. Apologize to anyone you wronged, forgive yourself, and move on to do better tomorrow.
What if Child Abuse Happens?
Unfortunately, all your best efforts may not be able to prevent someone from abusing a child in your home. If that happens, it’s important to act right away to prevent further abuse. In our area, there are people willing to help keep kids and adults safe when abuse is becoming a problem.
Using your best judgment, you may need to seek help from one of these agencies:
- Law enforcement: Dial 911
- WoMen’s Rural Advocacy Program (WRAP) for domestic violence victims: Call (507) 637-3040 or use their Toll Free Crisis Line at 800-639-2350.
- New Horizons (crime victim advocates): Call (507) 637-5570
Would you like to develop the good parenting habits that will prevent child abuse in your own home?
Our free parenting classes (now available online) can help you reach your goal.
Call or text us today to get started.