MIND & BODY: April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month

We join with individuals, families and the community in working to reduce child abuse and/or neglect. One of the greatest gifts we can give our children is for them to know they are loved, valued and special.

Through our interactions and words, we communicate to children how we feel about them. If we communicate positive, loving and affirming messages, children grow up to feel self-confident and capable, knowing they have people who love them and believe in them.

Children who hear messages that are negative, harsh, mean-spirited and unkind, often grow up feeling they are unlovable and unworthy, and may make poor choices in life. Using positive reinforcement will help us raise children who are self-disciplined.

There are simple ways parents can give children the best starts:

— Be a nurturing parent. Children need to know that they are special, loved and capable of following their dreams.

— Take care of yourself. When the big and little problems of everyday life pile up to the point you feel overwhelmed, take a time out for yourself.

— If your baby cries and you have a hard time comforting your baby, seek support or help. Talk with your health care provider or community agencies about what to do to help your baby. Never shake a baby. Shaking a baby or a child may result in severe injury or death.

— Get involved. Ask your community, leaders, clergy, library and schools to develop services to the meet the needs of healthy children and families.

— Monitor your child’s television, video and internet usage. Watching violent programs and video, playing graphic games can harm children.

— Remember the purpose of discipline. It is to teach your child socially acceptable ways of expressing natural desires. Discipline guides your child into adulthood.

— The best discipline is geared to the child’s developmental age and stage. Don’t expect a child of any age to perform something he or she is not ready for. If you are sure about normal milestones and age appropriate behavior, seek support from your healthcare provider, school or other community agency.

— Children need positive reinforcement. Reward your child for appropriate behaviors with smiles, hugs, attention, praise and thanks. Rewards do not need to be candy or toys.

— Never hit or shake a child. Hitting is not a useful tool for children. Hitting a child actually teaches a child that it is OK to hit people or it can make them too angry to be regretful for what they did wrong. Hitting and shaking a child can hurt a child physically, causing not only emotional hurt and fear but also physical pain.

— Discipline is taught best by example. The lessons you teach your child come from what your child sees you do, not what you say.

— If what you are doing is not working, change it. Your best efforts, even those that worked in the past, may break down. Sometimes parents need to be creative in their approach to helping a child learn to manage their behaviors.

If you as a parent or caregiver feel overwhelmed, try some of these coping strategies:

— Take a deep breath and then another. Press your lips together and count to 10, or better yet, to 20.

— If someone can watch the children, go outside and take a walk.

— If not, put your baby on their back in their crib, make sure they are safe and walk away for a bit.

— Put yourself in a time-out. Think about why you are angry and what might make you feel better that you can do for yourself.

— Call a friend or family member to vent or ask for help.

— Take a hot bath or splash cold water on your face.

— Hug a pillow.

— Turn on some music. Maybe even sing along.

— Pick up a pencil and write down as many helpful words as you can think of. Save the list.

— Call for prevention information: 1-800-CHILDREN

If you or someone you know has reason to believe a child has been harmed or may be harmed, call your local police department or you can call the Child Abuse Hotline at 1-877-KYSAFE1 or 1-877-597-2331. We are all responsible for protecting children.

Information from Prevent Child Abuse America, website address: www.preventchildabuse.org Clark County Health Department provides programs for the entire family, including WIC, HANDS, family planning, well child care/immunizations and home health care. For more information, call 744-4482 or go to www.clarkhealthdept.org or the department’s Facebook page.