Young children experience the world through their relationships with parents and other caregivers. There are parents and caregivers in our community who may have difficulty balancing the stress of everyday life and looking after a child. Whether it’s multiple jobs trying to put groceries on the table, grappling with a substance use disorder, wondering where the rent for the next month is coming from, or figuring out how to deal with a major financial setback To Balance These Pressures With Parenthood And Running A household can be very difficult at times.
In addition, with the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, more families than ever are struggling – with health anxiety, job loss, social distancing, children out of school, and other consequences.
Unfortunately, stress in its many forms can be a contributing factor to child abuse and neglect. We have seen this time and again with the court-appointed Special Advocates (CASA) in Denton County with the children and families we serve who are involved in the care system. Stress is a natural by-product of parenting, but when that stress is combined with fears about finances, health, employment, or relationships, it can become too much for a person.
While there is no excuse for abuse or neglect, if we as a community want to prevent this and help families stay together safely, we need to understand the underlying problems that can cause us to occur. After all, we know that the vast majority of parents love their children – and the last thing they want is for their children to be placed in foster care because of a mistake they made during a difficult time.
So you might be wondering, what can you do to help? As a community, we can come together to prevent child abuse and neglect by helping our own family members, friends, and neighbors reduce the stress of parenting. There are many efforts that you can make to help families directly, and while they seem small, they can have a big impact.
Childcare is a wonderful way to support a family. This simple act can relieve the child’s caretaker of an immense amount of stress. While you are watching the children, the caregiver has the opportunity to focus on getting things done, but most importantly, she has a moment to relax with some “me-time” – to relieve her stress.
Giving time and conversation can be just as valuable to a new or stressed parent. This simple act can help a caregiver relieve their own stress by being able to express their feelings. Additionally, if you have experience raising a child, you may offer to share your advice and act as a resource for them. Let them know that they can turn to you, as someone with shared experience, if they are experiencing moments of uncertainty or fear. Even if you have no personal experience raising a child, you can still listen. You can also share resources or connect them with someone you know who might be able to give them advice.
These little kind acts make a difference because we never know exactly what a family might be dealing with. Even one of these acts could mean the world to a caregiver who might feel alone raising her child.
As friends and neighbors, we can work to build support systems for families to make sure they know they are not alone and that their community is behind them. I ask the people of Denton County to show their support for vulnerable families in our area. Show them that we have a community that is on their side, ready and willing to support them in any way they need.
Will you be helping families here in our church with me?
April is the national month for the prevention of child abuse. If you see abuse, report it to 1-800-252-5400 or visit www.txabusehotline.org. If a child’s life is in danger, call 911.
CASA Needs Community Volunteers: To learn more about CASA’s work in Denton County’s child welfare system, call 940-243-2272 or visit casadenton.org for more information.
MELINDA GALLER is the chairman of the board of directors of CASA in Denton County.