It’s up to parents, caregivers to prevent child abuse

Published 8:47 am Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Editor’s Note: The Tidewater News introduces a new monthly health column in today’s issue written by registered nurse Colleen Flick.

by Colleen Flick

April’s health issue has focused on child abuse prevention awareness with events and fundraisers in Southampton County, Franklin and area towns targeted at parents and caregivers. We have made people more aware of child abuse prevention by the many interesting and fun activities, but are we truly aware of the far-reaching effects of child abuse?

In 2007, child abuse affected more than 5.8 million youngsters in the nation. It includes physical, verbal, sexual and emotional abuse as well as neglect and abandonment, sometimes leading to death.

In 2008, the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System noted that 1,740 children died from abuse or neglect.

How can this be prevented?

The answer lies deep within the heart of every parent and caregiver. Parents do what they know. Children are our future. What happens today — good and bad — rolls over into adulthood. Adults who were abused as children may have issues affecting their psychosocial character. Their relationships with others and reactions during stressful life problems are dependent on the perspectives built during their own childhood.

Parents and caregivers parent the way they were parented, but is this an excuse to continue the endless mad cycle? Definitely not.

Let’s switch our thinking to nature for a moment. My front yard used to be covered in weeds and dandelions. Each year I thought about getting it tilled and planting real grass. I was so used to being satisfied with the weeds, I just continued with the same problem year after year.

I didn’t want to admit I had a problem. One day I finally decided to make a change and get some help, so I went to the experts — a local feed and hardware store. They listened to my woes about the lawn and told me what to do. It was embarrassing, but the experts were patient and helped guide me.

Eventually my grass became a beautiful green lawn. Are there still some dandelions? Yes, but at least now when they rear their yellow, fluffy heads, I recognize them for the weeds they are and can take action before they take over.

Like the dandelions, the pain of our past can be difficult to uproot, but if we don’t process the weeds of our past, we won’t rid ourselves of the pain and begin our healing. It will take time, but thinking about and discussing how we are parented is the beginning of positive change.

If you were abused as a child, suppressing the past can only make the future more difficult. Get help. There are resources offered by social services, churches and hospitals. Talk to somebody before it’s too late.