Preventing Child Abuse
More than 1,000 children died in 2000 as a result of neglect or abuse. That's a rate of almost two children per 100,000 children in the United States. The rate does not account for those children who die every day inside – emotionally or spiritually – when they are abused.
"In today's high-paced society, demands on everyone are great, particularly for parents who have added responsibilities," says Dr. Joan Shook, chief of emergency medicine at Texas Children's Hospital, associate professor of pediatrics at Baylor College of Medicine and advocate of child-abuse prevention. "These demands can result in many everyday stressors. Unfortunately, parents sometimes take their stress out on their children in the form of abuse – either physical or verbal – which can lead to a lifetime of pain and regret."
During National Childhood Abuse Prevention Month, Shook recommends the following:
- When you're angry, stop, calm down and slowly count to 10.
- Work out stress by exercising. Exercise releases endorphins, which are neurotransmitters that produce positive feelings.
- Give yourself some time alone. If someone else is available to watch the children, take advantage of it.
- Transfer negative energy into positive energy. Do something productive like clean the house or work in the yard.
- Share your feelings. Write them in a journal, share them with a friend or call a confidential help line. Just releasing those feelings can make you feel better.
- Tune yourself out. Listen to music, watch TV or read a book until you feel that you can rationally deal with the problem.
"We all have a responsibility to report victims of child abuse," says Shook. "Failure to report a child who has been abused is a violation of the law."
If you suspect that a child has been abused, watch for the following:
- Repeated injuries that are neither treated nor explained well.
- Unusual behavior patterns ranging from disruptive/aggressive to passive/withdrawn.
- Playing the role of a parent with other siblings.
- Disturbed sleep (nightmares, bedwetting, fear of sleeping alone, needing a nightlight).
- A change in appetite (eating more or less).
- A sudden drop in grades and disinterest in school activities.
- Report of abusive or neglectful acts.
To report a child abuse case, call 1-800-4ACHILD (800-422-4453).