By Vicki Spriggs, Texas CASA CEO
April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month. Would you believe me if I told you that every single one of us can help prevent child abuse and neglect—and that many of you are already doing so?
The fact is that stress in its many forms can be a contributing factor to child abuse and neglect. Stress is a natural part of parenthood, but when things get to be too much to handle it can have devastating consequences.
Across our community, parents and caregivers are experiencing challenges big and small—everything from finances, to work-life balance, to relationships, to mental and physical health issues. With the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, for so many families, these issues are only heightened.
So how can we help? By helping each other! We can aid our own family members, friends and neighbors in reducing the stresses of parenthood.
One of the best ways to reduce stress for exhausted parents is, quite simply, to give them a break! Offering to watch the kids is a simple act that can have a huge positive impact because it gives caregivers the rare chance to spend their time wholly on their terms. Whether they end up cleaning the house, going out on a “date night,” finally doing the taxes or binging the latest season of their favorite show—they’ll appreciate the chance to clear their minds, recuperate and come back ready to be the best parents they can be.
Donating goods is another great way to help relieve strained families in your community. Purging your closet, toy collection or your pantry? Donate those items to a local foster care provider, shelter or other child- and family-serving organization. If you’re able and willing to purchase and donate new items, consider contacting your local CPS Rainbow Room—24/7 resource centers where CPS workers get supplies for children and families in need.
In a similar vein, you can help a family strapped for money or time by offering to cook or buy them a meal. Whether they’re one of the 11% of families in the United States experiencing food insecurity, or they’re just stretched too thin to cook after a long work day, the simple action of donating a nutritious meal can make them feel cared for and supported.
And last but not least, lend a listening ear! Your time and conversation can be just as valuable to a parent as the acts of service above. Let them know you’re there for them if they need a sounding board or to air out their frustrations. If you have experience with raising a child, feel free to offer advice if they ask for it. Whatever the case, listen to them, validate their feelings and experiences, and make sure they know they can turn to you for support.
You may be reading this and thinking you’re already doing most, or all, of these things. If so, that’s great! You’re already helping prevent abuse and neglect! The fact is, prevention doesn’t have to be difficult, academic or complicated. It can be as simple as being there—for our friends, our neighbors, our loved ones and our greater community. Small acts of kindness like these do matter, because we can never fully know what a family might be going through. So this Child Abuse Prevention Month and beyond, join me in sharing support, love and service for families in our community—it really can make all the difference.