National Child Abuse Prevention Month recognizes the importance of families and communities working together to prevent child abuse and neglect. At ReadyKids, we know that no one becomes a parent with the intent of abusing or neglecting children. Opportunity gaps, trauma and social factors like addiction and mental illness add stress to the already stressful job of parenting.
Nevertheless, in 2018 within the ReadyKids service area there were 4,005 accepted claims of child abuse. Child abuse is a community-wide issue that can only be solved as a community. Therefore, we planted pinwheel gardens during the month of April. The gardens raise awareness of what causes and how to prevent child abuse.
Pinwheel Gardens for Prevention
The pinwheel is a symbol of child abuse awareness for its whimsy and childhood associations. In other words, it is a nationally recognized symbol of the great childhoods we want for all children. At ReadyKids, we work closely with not only kids but parents, caregivers, police and other service providers. Our goal is to create great childhoods by promoting social and emotional well-being.
In addition, each pinwheel garden has copies of the ReadyKids “Keeping Your Family Strong” pamphlet. These pamphlets educate and support families. Research shows that “protective factors” like having a strong support system and knowing about child development help parents stay more calm in moments of high stress. For instance, a parent that knows that part of two-year-old development is learning to communicate and assert themselves is less likely to erupt when the child screams “no diaper change!” Above all, anything a family can do to build up protective factors will help to prevent child abuse.
ReadyKids placed pinwheel gardens in eleven neighborhoods of Charlottesville. You can find them in the following locations:
Foothills Child Advocacy Center
Albemarle Victim Witness Office
Southwood Mobile Home Park
Greer Elementary School
Agnor Hurt Elementary School
Friendship Court Apartments
Apartments at Greenstone on 5th
Park’s Edge Apartments
Every family has strengths, and every family faces challenges. When you are under stress — the car breaks down, you or your partner lose a job, a child’s behavior is difficult, or even when the family is experiencing a positive change, such as moving into a new home — sometimes it takes a little extra help to get through the day.
Protective factors are the strengths and resources that families draw on when life gets difficult. Building on these strengths is a proven way to keep the family strong and enhance child well-being. What are your family’s protective factors? What can you do so that when inevitable stress happens, your family stays strong?
Research shows that there are six key protective factors that keep families afloat during stressful times. Here are some simple ways you can build these factors in your own family.
|Protective Factor and What It Means||What You Can Do
|Nurturing and Attachment: Our family shows how much we love each other||- Take time at the end of each day to connect with your children with a hug, smile, a song, or a few minutes of listening and talking
- Find ways to engage your children while completing everyday tasks (meals, shopping, driving in the car). Talk about what you are doing, ask them questions, or play simple games (such as “I spy”).
| Knowledge of Parenting and Child Development : I know parenting is part natural and part learned. I am always learning new things about raising children and what they can do at different ages. ||- Explore parenting questions with your family doctor, your child's teacher, family or friends
- Subscribe to a magazine, website, or online newsletter about child development
- Take a parenting class at a local community center, or Region Ten.
- Sit and observe what your child can and cannot do
- Share what you learn with anyone who cares for your child
| Social Connections : I have friends, family, and neighbors who help out and provide emotional support.||- Participate in neighborhood activities such as potluck dinners, street fairs, picnics or block parties
- Join a playgroup or online support group of parents with children at similar ages
- Find a faith community that welcomes and supports parents
| Parental Resilience : I have courage during stress and the ability to bounce back from challenges.||- Take quiet time to reenergize: take a bath, write, sing, laugh, play, drink a cup of tea
- Do some physical exercise: walk, stretch, do yoga, lift weights, dance
- Share your feelings with someone you trust
- Surround yourself with people who support you and make you feel good about yourself.
| Concrete Supports for Parents: Our family can meet our day-to-day needs, including housing, food, health care, education and counseling. I know where to find help if I need it.||- Make a list of people or places to call for support
- Ask the director of your child's school to host a Community Resource Night, so you (and other parents) can see what your community offers.
|Social and Emotional Competence of Children: My children know they are loved, feel they belong, and are able to get along with others.||- Provide regular routines, especially for young children. Make sure everyone who cares for your child is aware of your routines around mealtimes, naps, and bedtime.
- Talk with your children about how important feelings are.
- Teach and encourage children to solve problems in age-appropriate ways.
Our Family: Write down 3 or more things you would like to do this month to increase protective factors for your children or family.
You did it! Now share the things you would like to do this month with the rest of your family. Can you feel yourself growing stronger already?