April is known for a lot of things – mud, snow, rain or other forms of moisture, depending on where you live. It’s also known as Child Abuse Prevention Month. We prefer, however, to think of it as “we can all help keep our kids safe” month.
Have you noticed the blue pinwheels around town? It’s a fun way to remind each other to keep an eye out for kids. Just as there are many different forms of child abuse, there are many ways we can all help protect children. The goal is to grow a community of strong, smart, kind and healthy children. So rather than focus on the terrible things that sometimes happen to children, we want to talk about ways we all can help kids reach that goal.
Parents and family members can keep learning about child development, at what children learn certain skills and what type of behavior is to be expected. Parents can also learn more about how to respond to children when they misbehave. Several organizations hold workshops or parenting classes, including Aspen Family Connections and Kids First. There are also helpful books and respected online sources. The best way to learn is to really watch your child and listen as they play. That’s the best part of when a child is still young — you still have that chance to watch and listen. Those opportunities lessen as they get older. Ask your child how they are feeling or what they’re excited or worried about. You never know what you may hear.
And if you’re a friend, a neighbor, or even a co-worker? You may be just the right person to check in with that mom or dad to see how they’re doing. You may have the opportunity to do something fun together or help work on a project that is stressing them out. You can share resources that you know about or have used. Many employers offer employee assistance plans or flexible work hours.
Children are still learning how to manage their emotions and build healthy relationships. We’ve heard it all along – little children have big emotions, and we need to be the ones to bring the calm to their storm. Some people meditate, others just take a deep breath. Sometimes it takes a couple minutes; other times it takes more than a few.
Lastly, if you think you have seen a child being neglected or abused, it is OK to report a concern — even if you are not 100% sure — by calling 800-264-5437. A local caseworker will follow up carefully and with compassion, ensuring the child is OK and understanding the situation. That is the job of a caseworker and they are trained professionals.
While there may be serious consequences and families will be offered critical resources, the bottom line is that the child will be in better care and with more support. Social workers work to support families and keep children safe in their homes. People like teachers, law enforcement, child care and medical staff are required to report suspected child abuse.
All children should grow up in a safe, stable home. Visit co4kids.org for more information and cityofaspen.com/259/Kids-Thrive for local resources that support kids and their families.
Growing Community, by Shirley Ritter, the director of Kids First, and Katherine Sand, the director of Aspen Family Connections, runs every other Wednesday in the Aspen Daily News. It features topics of interest related to early childhood, parenting and education. To reach the authors, email Shirley at firstname.lastname@example.org or Katherine at email@example.com.