April is child abuse prevention month!

Did you know that a report of child abuse is made every 10 seconds? And did you also know that four children die every day due to child abuse and 70 percent of them are under the age of 4? Since 1972, Prevent Child Abuse America (PCA America) has led the way in building awareness, providing education and inspiring hope to everyone involved in the effort to prevent the abuse and neglect of our nation’s children. Many times parents have very good intentions with their children, but life stresses, how they were raised, and not having resources to help guide them can cause them to react negatively. Especially when you have never been a parent before. Remember, each child is different, as is each parent, so become a nurturing parent by meeting your basic physical needs as well as consistently seeking to meet your children’s emotional needs. Being a new parent can be the most important and wonderful work you will ever do, yet also the most difficult thing you will ever do.

To assist you in doing what you can to prevent child abuse, Childhelp provides the following tips:

Help a friend, neighbor or relative. Everyone sometimes feels stressed, overworked and out of patience, but these kinds of emotions, if left unabated, can lead to regrettable parenting decisions. If you notice that a parent you know seems to be having a rough time, that’s a great cue that they may need a little break. Even small gestures can mean a lot and relieve a stressful parent. Remember, just because a parent is stressed, doesn’t mean that they are abusing or neglecting their children. But a little help from a trusted friend may do a lot to help them be the parent they want to be.

If you find yourself being the one who is stressed out, then maybe it’s time to let a trusted friend or family member in to help on occasion. Sometimes a few good nights’ sleep away for the weekend is all it takes.

When a baby won’t stop crying, it can be frustrating, heartbreaking and even defeating. If you have a baby who is prone to long bouts of crying, find help in how to calm your baby (contact your local Child Abuse Prevention Program for additional information). Never shake a baby. Shaking a baby can result in severe injury and even death.

Monitor your child’s media intake. Watching violent films and television shows can be harmful to a young child’s development and can be desensitizing to older children and teens.

Promote programs in school. Help the schools in your community be a source of education about child abuse, not just math, English and science.

Know the signs. Unexplained injuries aren’t the only signs of abuse. 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 are often signs of family problems and may indicate a child is being neglected or physically, sexually, or emotionally abused.

Teach children their rights. When children are taught they are special and have the right to be safe, they are less likely to think abuse is their fault, and more likely to report an offender.

Invest in kids. Encourage leaders in the community to be supportive of children and families. Ask employers to provide family-friendly work environments. Ask your local and national lawmakers to support legislation to better protect our children and to improve their lives.

Report suspected abuse or neglect. Last, but certainly not least, if you suspect abuse, report it. If you are being abused, don’t stay silent. Anyone can call the National Child Abuse Hotline: 1-800-4-A-CHILD 24 hours a day, seven days a week at no cost, anonymously.

Marshalltown is also very fortunate to have a chapter right here in the community and the dedicated staff there are continuously working hard to make life better for children and families. Please contact them at 641-752-1730 if you need help or if you are concerned about a child. All of us CAN make a difference in a child’s life!

Sue Junge is an Early Childhood Support Specialist for the Iowa River Valley Early Childhood Area and is a Thursday columnists for the Times-Republican. The views expressed in this column are personal views of the writer and don’t necessarily reflect the views of the T-R. For more information, please visit www.iowarivervalleyeca.com.