Our View: Many factors contribute to child wellbeing

Every April since 1983 has been Child Abuse Prevention Month in the U.S.; the month has also been home to Earth Day on April 22 since 1970.

The two causes go hand-in-hand because how we treat our children and our planet today determine what kind of life our children will have tomorrow.

When it comes to preventing child abuse, there are many “protective factors” that, when in place, help ensure a child can lead a happy, healthy life and develop properly, growing into a happy, healthy adult.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, those protective factors include having supportive family and friends; making sure kids have their basic needs met; having nurturing parents and a stable family situation; parental education and employment; and access to health care and social services. They also include community factors, such as the presence of mentors outside of a child’s family who can serve as role models; and the presence of community members work to prevent abuse and to offer support for parents who need it.

Working in the opposite direction of these protective factors are risk factors for child abuse, which the CDC says include a lack of parenting skills, substance abuse, a history of child abuse or neglect and “transient caregivers” such as a boyfriend in the home. A community can also contribute to the risk of child abuse if there is a high level of violence in general or if there is a combination of high poverty and high unemployment.

We have the power as parents and as community members to make choices about our behaviors that help protect our children or put our children at risk. April is about making people aware of that choice and helping them make the right choice.

Similarly, we can make choices that help protect or put at risk our planet.

There are choices that add to the risk of global warming, which could transform what life is like for our children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

If we continue to increase the amount of carbon and greenhouse gases we put into the atmosphere every year, we could see average temperatures rise by as much as 4 degrees Celsius by 2100. Our great-grandchildren could be living in a world where ocean levels are 50-80 feet higher than they are today, where food shortages are a fact of life, where natural disasters are far more destructive than even the worst hurricanes today.

There are also choices that help protect the planet. For example, planting trees are a great way of pulling carbon back out of the atmosphere. We’ve actually been doing a pretty good job of this: Researchers found last year that global tree cover had increased by about 7 percent over the last 35 years.

Walking is another protective choice for the planet — and it comes with the added benefit of better health for you. If you walk to get somewhere a block away, a half-mile away or even a little more, you can still get there in less than 15 minutes and you won’t have burned any fossil fuels doing it. You will have burned some calories and helped yourself stay fit, making it more likely you’ll be around to see your great-grandchildren and the earth they inherit.

Whether you make protective choices this month to prevent abuse, help the planet or both, you can make all of those choices with one slogan in mind: Do it for the kids.