Everyone can play a role in the fight against child abuse. The first step is gaining knowledge, especially when it comes to recognizing signs that may indicated child abuse. Although child abuse can come in many different forms, including physical abuse, emotional abuse, sexual abuse and neglect, there are common symptoms that may arise from any of these cases.
Recognizing Child Abuse
Most often, when people think of “signs of child abuse”, they think of the physical indicators (cuts, bruises, broken bones) associated with physical abuse. However, it’s important to remember even symptoms of physical abuse can be hidden from the naked eye. The more important symptoms to look out for are often psychological and behavioral.
Common Symptoms of Child Abuse:
- Shows sudden changes in behavior or school performance
- Has not received help for physical or medical problems brought to the parent’s attention
- Displays learning difficulties not attributed to specific physical or psychological causes
- Is always watchful, as though preparing for something bad to happen
- Lacks adult supervision
- Is overly compliant, overly responsible or an overachiever
- Come to school early, stays late and does not want to go home
- Shows little concern for the child
- Denies the existence of, or blames the child for, the his/her problems in school or at home
- Requests the use of harsh physical discipline if the child misbehaves
- Perceives the child as bad, worthless, or burdensome
- Demands perfection or a level of physical/academic performance the child cannot achieve
- Looks primarily to the child for care, attention, and satisfaction of emotional needs
The Parent and Child:
- Rarely touch or look at each other
- Consider the relationship as entirely negative
- State that they do not like each other
**None of these signs prove that child abuse is present in a family or relationship. Any of these symptoms can occur at some point for any child or parent. However, when these signs appear repeatedly or in combination, it’s possible that some sort of maltreatment is occurring. If you witness this please take a closer look at the situation and consider the possibility of child abuse. You do not need to know for sure, but if you have ANY suspicion, please report it so that professionals can conduct an official investigation. Source – Prevent Child Abuse Colorado
What You Can Do TODAY to Help Prevent Child Abuse
As a Parent:
- Take Care of Yourself – Take time for yourself and don’t neglect your own mental and physical needs. Be aware of your own emotions and well-being and if you start to feel overwhelmed, take a minute to calm yourself down. Even a two-minute meditation or breathing exercise can make a huge difference.
- Have a Support System – Join a family fitness class or play group in your neighborhood. Building and maintaining a strong support system can help you get much needed breaks, share ideas about what works and what doesn’t, and cope with difficult situations.
- Ask for Help – Every parent needs an extra hand sometimes. Don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it.
- Educate yourself about Early Childhood Development – Taking the time to learn about the different stages or child development helps us set realistic expectations about our children’s behavior and abilities. Taking a parenting class or reading a parenting book can give you the knowledge and tools you need to cope with various situations.
- Be Resilient – Every family faces challenging times. Being resilient means recognizing stressful situations, learning coping tools and keeping a sense of hope through difficult times.
As a Friend:
- Help a Parent – Being a parent is not easy. Help distract a restless child in a waiting room or long line or offer to watch a child for a few hours to give a parent a break.
- Share Support Resources with a Parent – There are tons of resources out there for struggling parents, including a 24/7 Family Support Line they can call when they’re stressed out – 1-800-CHILDREN. Share this number with all parents!
- Know the Signs – Familiarize yourself with the signs of child abuse so you can recognize when it may be happening.
- Report Suspicions – Even when you don’t know for sure, report any suspicions you have of child abuse to your local Department of Children & Family Services or contact the police.
In the Community:
- Get Involved – Volunteer at a local child abuse prevention program or at an organization that supports victims of child abuse, so they can break the cycle of abuse. Help spread awareness by participating in a Pinwheels for Prevention event or simply sharing prevention resources on social media.
- Promote Prevention Programs in Schools – Encourage your school district to offer programs that teach children, parents and teachers prevention strategies.
- Know and Share the Signs – Know the signs and help educate others on how to recognize child abuse.
- Report Suspicions – If you suspect child abuse, report it to your local Department of Children & Family Services or contact the police. Remember, you don’t have to be sure – if you have a concern for a child’s well-being, report it so a professional can investigate.