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April is Child Abuse Prevention and Awareness Month
HANSCOM AIR FORCE BASE, Mass. - Matt Nicoli (right), Family Advocacy Program, explains to Col. Stacy L. Yike, 66th Air Base Group commander, some of the programs that will be presented by FAP throughout April for Child Abuse Prevention and Awareness Month, as Capt. Lisa Hoyt (left) and Erin Hennessy look on. Colonel Yike signed a proclamation on April 4 declaring April as Child Abuse Prevention and Awareness Month on base. (U.S. Air Force photo by Rick Berry)
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April is Child Abuse Prevention and Awareness Month

Posted 4/7/2011   Updated 4/7/2011 Email story   Print story


by Matt Nicoli
Family Advocacy Program

4/7/2011 - HANSCOM AIR FORCE BASE, Mass. -- April is Child Abuse Prevention and Awareness Month. Although the name is self-explanatory, some may still be unaware of what child abuse entails.

The following provides a few insights into warning signs of child abuse, why it occurs, how to address when it does occur and how to prevent it from occurring.

When many hear the phrase "child abuse" they immediately tune out, possibly due to their own discomfort with the subject matter or don't feel the subject matter relates to them, among other reasons. While for many people it is a difficult subject to deal with, hearing about abuse of a child triggers many feelings and judgments.

Abuse comes in many forms -- physical, verbal, emotional, neglect or sexual -- and has numerous and significant consequences.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reported that 1.25 million children experienced maltreatment between 2005 and 2006. This suggests that many people have experienced or know someone who has experienced child abuse.

Some potential warning signs of child abuse include: excessively withdrawn, fearful or anxious about doing something wrong or extremes in behavior. This could include extremely compliant or extremely demanding, extremely passive or extremely aggressive actions or tantrums. Another sign may be that the child doesn't seem to be attached to the parent or caregiver.

So, why does the child abuse occur? Some would consider looking at risk factors of parents or primary care providers, unrealistic expectations of the child, impulsivity, limited or no support, substance use or abuse, poor decision making, lack of parenting skills or a parent who may have experienced abuse as a child. There seems to be no one reason, however, looked at it holistically, one can better understand why it's occurring.

Some things to consider for those that may suspect abuse occurring:

Remain calm. A common reaction to news as unpleasant and shocking as child abuse is denial. However, someone that displays denial to a child or shows shock or disgust at what they are saying may cause the child to be afraid to talk about it and shut down. As hard as it may be, remain as calm and reassuring as possible.

Don't interrogate. Let the child explain in his or her own words what happened. This may confuse and fluster the child and make it harder for them to continue their story.

Reassure the child that they did nothing wrong. It takes a lot for a child to come forward about abuse. Reassure him or her that what is said is taken seriously and that it is not the child's fault.

Safety comes first. If you feel that your safety or the safety of the child would be threatened if intervening, contact the Family Advocacy Program or security forces.

Some factors that help mitigate the possibility of abuse include:

Learn what is age appropriate and what is not. Having realistic expectations of what children can handle at certain ages will help avoid frustration and anger at normal child behavior. For example, newborns are not going to sleep through the night without a peep and toddlers are not going to be able to sit quietly for extended periods of time.

Develop new parenting skills. Learning to control emotions is critical. Start by learning appropriate discipline techniques and how to set clear boundaries for children.

Parenting classes, books and seminars are a way to get this information. One can also turn to other parents for tips and advice.

Take care of yourself. People who are not getting enough rest and support or feeling overwhelmed are much more likely to succumb to anger. Sleep deprivation, common in parents of young children, adds to moodiness and irritability.

Learn how to can get emotions under control. The first step to getting emotions under control is realizing that they are there. For those that were abused as a child, they may have an especially difficult time getting in touch with a range of emotions. They may have had to deny or repress them as a child, and now they spill out without control.

For additional information about these issues visit: helpguide.org/mental/child_abuse_physical_emotional_sexual_neglect.htm.

For a step by step process on how to develop emotional intelligence, visit: www.helpguide.org/mental/eq5_raising_emotional_intelligence.htm.

FAP has abuse prevention services, as well. Family Advocacy Strengths Training (FAST) and New Parent Support Program (NPSP) are only a call away. FAST offers marital, family and individual therapy. NPSP offers parents the opportunity to understand age appropriate developmental expectations of children and alternative discipline strategies. For further information, contact FAP at 781-377-4791.

Child Abuse Prevention Month Outreach:

April 13-15: Silent Witness project will be displayed around base.

April 22: Parents Appreciation Day at CDC - FAP, CDC and Chapel will be hosting a Parent Appreciation Day. The event will be held during the drop off and pick up hours. Food, beverages and parenting materials will be provided.

April 29: FAP will join the Alcohol and Drug Prevention Treatment Program (ADAPT) to present information concerning substance abuse and child abuse prevention.

April 30: FAP will participate in the Walk n Talk event at Castle Park.

For more information on these and other FAP events and services, call 781-377-4617.

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