Child Abuse Prevention During the Pandemic

In thinking about child abuse and neglect prevention and awareness, I am overwhelmed by the reality of how too often one can find themselves in a situation of helplessness and survival mode. Throughout this pandemic, many caregivers find their world has turned upside down with supports, routines, and normalcy pulled out from under them.

We are being asked to adapt during a time of limbo and find ways to complete our “usual” tasks while taking on new ones. Some caregivers must continue to go to work, learn to work at home, or attend school while making sure the children are home-schooled, safe and fed, and oh, are also entertained enough to not continuously tell you how bored they are!

We are all concerned about finances and no one has extra help or supports coming in at this time. Grandparents? Friends? Family Members? Nope! Even essential professionals are limited in their capacity and ability to come into your home.

I often find myself struggling to keep up with the necessary tasks of the day, and not even getting to the “hopes” I have for myself now that I am home more often. My own mental health is being tested through this difficult, ever-changing time. I have feelings of guilt when I am too quick to express my frustration with my children. I am sad that I am not taking my children outside as often as I think I should. I worry about my daughter’s speech regressing without the aid of speech therapy. However, I have great worry for parents and caregivers who are being stressed and stretched to the max – I worry that some may react in a way they would not normally. For, when in “survival mode”, one cannot expect to function the same as we did before the pandemic.

This entire situation has made me rethink how parents with limited support before this pandemic, made it day-by-day, parenting in a “survival mode” every day. Who did they go to for support? How did they make sure their own self-care needs were met? How did they appropriately respond to their children’s needs among competing demands? Who grew up in “survival mode”?

Child abuse and neglect is the result of many different factors, yet I believe one of the main factors is what many parents are now feeling during this difficult time: our expectations (either our own or from others) exceed our abilities to meet even basic needs. During this time, more and more parents are struggling with how to make it through, wondering how they are going to have the endurance to continue, until conditions improve.
If I may, I’d like to lend some encouragement to help us through this stressful parenting time:

  1. Strip your life of all things that are not necessary and get back to the basics. Examine your needs as a human and a parent and focus only on finding solutions to those needs. Now is not the time to add extra pressures and demands. Solidly creating a foundation of needs that is continually being met, flourishes into a life with feelings and thoughts of purpose, fulfillment, and accomplishment. Then, you will begin to discover the “wants” or “hopes” you can handle and add them in.
  2.  Give and receive grace to and from your children and family. As humans, we continually fail others and others fail us. “Love them anyway” as Mother Teresa says. Implement grace into your family and model this trait for your children.
  3. Encourage other parents and caregivers not to cling to what they are doing “wrong” but cling to what they are doing well! During this pandemic we are omitting many “extras” in our lives and have a chance to think about what is important.
  4. Encourage one another to think about how we can either:
    a) find ourselves becoming increasingly angry and frustrated with our children and ourselves for how we think our lives “should” be (what we should be accomplishing, how many things we could be learning, etc.), or
    b) use this time of quarantine to be thankful for those in our lives and envision the “new normal” we want, after this quarantine. What activities do we want to do with our children? What type of self-care needs are extremely important that we as caregivers need, in order to function well? How often do we carve out family time? Times with friends? Times with extended family? What do I want my children to learn from my example?

Through the rest of this pandemic and after it is over, my goals are 1) to not revert to my old ways of perceiving others through their difficulties but to listen and hear if their needs are being met, validate their difficulties, and encourage others to take care of themselves in order to better care for their children and families, and 2) to make sure the important things in my life are of highest priority. We can have such an exciting, purposeful, and fulfilling life if we are able to use this time to learn about what we view as important, all the while modeling for our children and family how to have the same for theirs.

So, as we continue into week 7 of quarantine, I encourage everyone to examine their thoughts and feelings, strip away all that is not needed, and do well to meet your own needs as a parent and a human, and encourage your family, friends, and clients to do the same. Then we can begin to reduce frustrations with ourselves and our families and have a better understanding of others by stating what they need to survive and thrive.

 

– Amanda B. Brittin, LMSW
Family Engagement Supervisor