What do you do when you think you or someone else might harm a child? Follow this advice to prevent child abuse

Deacon Garay was killed by his mother’s boyfriend when he was 2 years old. Deacon’s Superman costume was used to make a teddy bear after he died. LAURA SKELDING/AMERICAN-STATESMAN 2014

It’s so easy to lose your cool with your kids. We know that, right? We all have regrets about the time we yelled too much or we grabbed an arm just a little bit harder than we intended to get a child to move where we needed her to go.

April is child abuse prevention month, but really every month should be child abuse prevention month, every day child abuse prevention day.

The Children’s Hospital Association of Texas offers this advice when you get angry or frustrated with your kids:

  • Take a deep breath and count to 20 slowly.
  • Put your child in a safe place and WALK AWAY. The crib is usually a good choice for children who have not yet learned to climb out. For older children, walk out of the room but remain within hearing range to make sure that the child is safe.
  • Now that your child is safe, take the time you need to calm down. This could just be a couple of minutes. If you need more time, reach out to a family member or friend to babysit for a while. Let them know how upset you are and that you need some help.
  • Call for help! Never be afraid to call for help. Reach out to family, friends, your church, or a trusted adult. If you can’t get help and feel like you might hurt your child, call 911. They will help make sure you and your child are safe.
  • Get rest. We are NOT at our best when we are over-tired and over-stressed. Just like airlines tell us, we must put on our oxygen first and then care for our child. Take care of yourself.

 

But what if it’s not about you and your children. What if it’s about that child down the street, your child’s classmate, the child you saw at the grocery store?

Here are 10 things the hospital association recommends you do:

  • Know what child abuse is. In addition to physical and sexual abuse, neglect can also be an issue. Neglect includes the failure of parents or other caregivers to provide a child with needed food, clothing, and care. Children can also be emotionally abused when they are rejected, berated, or continuously isolated.
  • Know how to recognize it. Unexplained injuries are just one sign of abuse. Habitual absence from school, depression, fear of a certain adult, difficulty trusting others or making friends, sudden changes in eating or sleeping patterns, inappropriate sexual behavior, poor hygiene, secrecy, and hostility can be signs that indicate a child is being neglected or abused.
  • Educate yourself and others. After-school activities, parent education classes, mentoring programs, and respite care are all great ways to keep kids safe. Be a supportive voice for these efforts in your community.
  •  Volunteer your time. Get involved with community groups or other parents near you. Help vulnerable children and their families by starting a playgroup.
  • Discipline your children thoughtfully. It’s never good to discipline a child in anger. Give yourself time to calm down, and remember that discipline is a way to teach your child. Use privileges to encourage good behavior and time-outs to help your child regain control. There is a substantial amount of literature that spanking, hitting, and other forms of physical punishment are not effective. Children disciplined in this way are more likely to be aggressive and have low self-esteem.
  • Examine your behavior. Abuse can reach far beyond the physical. Words as well as actions can inflict deep, lasting wounds. Be a nurturer. Actions show children and other adults that conflicts can be settled in a healthy way, without hitting or yelling.
  • Teach children their rights. When kids understand that they are special and have the right to be safe, they are less likely to think abuse is their fault. Then they become more likely to talk about potential abuse.
  • Support prevention programs. Research options in your community that have been proven to stop abuse before it occurs—such as family counseling and home visits by nurses who provide assistance for newborns and their parents.
  • Report abuse. If you see a child being harmed or witness evidence of abuse, call the local police or make a report to Texas Child Protective Services. If you’re talking to a child about suspected abuse, be sure to listen carefully, assuring the child that he or she did the right thing by telling an adult. Always affirm that he or she is not responsible for what happened.
  • Invest in kids. Be an advocate by encouraging community leaders to support children and families. Ask employers to provide family-friendly work environments. Ask your local and national lawmakers to support legislation to protect our children and to improve their lives.

How do you know when you need to call the Texas Abuse Hotline at 1-800-252-5400?

The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services recommends calling that number for these things:

  1. Serious injuries.
  2. Any injury to a child 5 years or younger.
  3. Immediate need for medical treatment including suicidal thoughts.
  4. Sexual abuse where the abuser has or will have access to the victim within the next 24 hours.
  5. Children age 5 and under are alone or are likely to be left alone within the next 24 hours.
  6. Anytime you believe your situation requires action in less than 24 hours.

You can find out more at DFPS website, www.HelpandHope.org or Prevention and Early Intervention programs.

RELATED: READ OUR SPECIAL REPORT ON CPS AND CHILD ABUSE