April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month. Since COVID-19 became part of our lives two years ago, most agencies saw a decrease in child abuse reporting due to virtual schools and fewer activities outside of the home. Of course, that doesn’t mean less abuse is occurring. As a parent, teacher, neighbor and friend, you have the responsibility to be on the lookout for child abuse and help to prevent child abuse in your community. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Child Welfare has excellent resources on this topic to help you with this tough subject.
(1) Withdrawal. If children you’re around on a normal basis become quiet, withdrawn or lose interest in things previously enjoyed, ask them what’s going on at home or talk to their siblings about their home lives. Keep a close eye on kids when their personalities drastically change.
(2) Extremes. If you notice extreme swings in behavior beyond the normal preteen or teenage angst, ask what’s going on in their lives. It could be trouble in class or a disagreement with a friend, but it could also be something more serious, along the lines of child abuse. Asking can always be helpful.
(3) Awareness. This can be sudden alertness or awareness of where everyone is or a child waiting for something bad to happen. Jumpiness can also be part of this warning sign.
How can you help?
(1) Ask and then listen. Don’t simply pepper kids with questions but offer to listen and sit with them. Some things come out in play with younger kids so paying attention to their imagination at work can reveal what’s going on at home.
(2) Reassure. If children tell you about abuse, remain calm. Reassure them it’s not their fault and tell them you’re going to get them help.
(3) Report the abuse. You can report the abuse anonymously. Even if you aren’t certain that abuse is happening, it’s better to report it so professionals can investigate.
If you or someone you know needs help, please reach out to a doctor, counselor or another loved one. For children and youth up to age 18 experiencing a mental health emergency, call the Tennessee Statewide Crisis Hotline:
Crisis TextLine – Text “TN” to 741741
If you are located outside of Tennessee, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-TALK or (1-800-273-8255)
Youth Villages is one of the largest providers of services to children in Tennessee and a national leader in children’s mental and behavioral health. The organization has been recognized by the Harvard Business School and U.S. News & World Report and was identified by The White House as one of the nation’s most promising results-oriented nonprofit organizations. Learn more at www.youthvillages.org.