Do you give "The Look"?

images-5Child abuse or should I say the prevention of -is a passion of mine. Picture this. You are at the grocery store, target, mall- some public place… when a child is acting out. You can see the anxiety of that parent rising. They may lash out at their child who is misbehaving, and maybe even in a way that concerns you. If you have ever been in that situation, what was your response? Was it to stare, or maybe even give the ‘look?’ May I make a suggestion? Any of us who are parents should be able to relate to that situation. How many times have I been standing in line at Target when one of my kids throws a tantrum because I am NOT going to buy them that fancy container of liquid sugar in the check out isle? They put it there for a reason people! For parents who decide to give in to their tantruming kids just to get the onlookers off their backs! (I’m guilty!)

Think about what might have helped you in that situation. A smile? Laughter? Recognition from someone that they have ‘been there’? In some circumstances, when you may be really concerned about the escalation of that parent’s behavior, and maybe even concerned for the safety of that child, what would you do? One recommendation may be to offer a distraction to take that parent out of the heated situation. Kindly interrupt and ask for directions. Compliment them on their clothing, hairstyle, whatever…. ask if they have seen a product. You get the idea. Something completely unrelated to the event, but because you are creating that interruption, it is giving both child and parent time to cool down.

On the other hand, if you are witnessing a violent act against a child, you have the responsibility to alert authorities. Children count on ‘the village’, and if the village fails them when warning signs are there, what is left? Unfortunately we live in a world where there is stress beyond measure. Many of us are feeling the pressures of our finances. For others it might be health issues, or lack of insurance, or a loved one who is deployed. We all have our triggers. I just ask that you, as a concerned citizen, take the responsibility to be the eyes and ears for our children. It really does take a village.

Anything you do to support kids and parents can help reduce the stress that often leads to abuse and neglect.

Be a friend to a parent you know. Ask how their children are doing. Draw on your own experiences to provide reassurance and support. If a parent seems to be struggling, offer to baby-sit or run errands, or just lend a friendly ear. Show you understand.

Be a friend to a child you know. Remember their names. Smile when you talk with them. Ask them about their day at school. Send them a card in the mail. Show you care.

Talk to your neighbors about looking out for one another’s children. Encourage a supportive spirit among parents in your apartment building or on your block. Show that you are involved.

Give your used clothing, furniture and toys for use by another family. This can help relieve the stress of financial burdens that parents sometimes take out on their kids.

Volunteer your time and money for programs in your community that support children and families, like parent support groups or day care centers.

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