April is the month when we anticipate the first signs of spring and new life. The tulips and first blades of grass poke through the ground, trees bud, and new calves find their legs to dance on the hills. April is also the month where additional focus is placed on the young lives placed in our care, as "Child Abuse Prevention Month."
According to the North Dakota Department of Human Services, 1,134 children were found to be victims of child abuse or neglect in 2010. During that same year, 6,359 children were suspected to be victims of child abuse or neglect.
Prevent Child Abuse ND reports that certain risk factors increase the chances of a child being abused or neglected: a lack of understanding of child development and critical parenting issues; relationship difficulties; depression and other mental health problems; parenting young children (especially infants-3 years); and financial and other struggles of daily living.
And there are powerful protective factors to prevent abuse and neglect. Anyone can make a difference and be a positive influence in a child or family's life.
Support children and families and provide them with the skills and resources they need. Positive parenting skills can be learned. Parenting support and education is for all parents, not just those on the verge of collapse. Encourage parents to enroll in parenting sessions and child development classes.
Give parents a break. Parenting is rewarding but can also come with more than a fair share of trying moments - days and sometimes years. Offer some respite, a night out or an opportunity for parents to have a weekend away from the kids. It will give parents a chance to hit their "refresh button" and gain parenting perspective.
Be a very important person to a child. Children benefit from positive adult connections. They feel secure when they hear similar supportive and guiding messages from the adults in their life.
Notice positive parenting. Often, parents only receive feedback when parenting is not going well. Affirm positive parenting when you observe it. Adults and children need cheerleaders.
Holly M. Arnold is the Region 2 Parent Resource Center Coordinator with the NDSU Extension Service-Ward County.