On April 15, 2020

April is Child Abuse Prevention Month

Dear Editor,

April is Child Abuse Prevention Month across the country. This unprecedented time for all Vermonters brings out the best in us all and also can elevate the risk for child abuse, domestic violence and increased substance abuse. Stress is a factor we as Vermonters are doing and can do a lot to decrease as we support and care for one another.

Most of us are working from home while lots of essential work is being done by health care workers, social workers, and food workers. Others, like law enforcement, military and brave cleaners who enter places that must be continuously cleaned to avoid further spread of the virus are heroic as well! Some of these Vermonters have to figure out ways to not transmit the virus to folks at home, even if it means living somewhere else for a while… All these Vermonters are a part of Vermont’s greatest wealth.

Parents who are used to working outside of the home are now faced with both continuing to work, but at home while taking care of their children simultaneously. We call all these conditions the “new normal.” Parents have always been on the front lines, raising the next generation, and never under more stressful conditions than now. They are heroes.

Amongst Vermont’s greatest wealth is our community volunteers. In fact, we may lead the nation in that strength. We see this realized in how people have made sure school children continue to receive meals while they learn at home, neighbors checking in on neighbors, food banks staying open,and wherever possible, Vermonters are showing up for each other.

Parents will always have a certain level of stress we consider normal… and even well resourced parents experience the stress of such awesome responsibility. When we become isolated, even the most even tempered among us can become frustrated and snap. Keeping our cool under these “New Normal” conditions is going to depend on the ways we care for and reach out to one another. Phone calls, Skype, Zoom with relatives, friends and our children’s classmates can help us feel the presence and love of those we are close to and are accustomed to having time to gather, share meals with and play. This is a tough time for all who parent.

It helps to get organized, with children especially. They are accustomed to a schedule and knowing when they are a few minutes away from transitioning to a different activity or part of the day. Having a morning family meeting to plan the day together over breakfast is a really good idea. Always include some time outdoors for a walk, even if it is chilly. Bundle up and off you go! Remember to keep six feet from others not in your household and wear masks. Stay safe but get fresh air and move your body! It will help reduce everyone’s stress level. At home, have fun activities like dance parties and the next day try a dress up dance party!

Draw pictures of pets or the family and put them up on the refrigerator. Make signs for your windows about hope and wave hello to people if they are walking by your home. Play a new game or work on a puzzle together. “Charades” never gets old. Write letters on email to folks who are even more isolated or send letters and drawings to older friends and relatives who may be living in senior housing or who are far away.

Naps help everyone.

Too much screen time can wear you out.

This is a good time for reading books to one another and to our children. Try baking together, planning meals and playing “Chopped” with mystery bags of food that can be challenging for older kids and parents to make a meal out of… Make videos and send them to relatives and friends. Monitor children’s screen time and look at what they are doing on line together. Unfortunately, this order to “stay at home” allows for lots of screen time for our youth and unprecedented opportunity for on-line predators. Remind children who use computers that any friend new or old asking you to remove any article of clothing gets a definite “no”, and to talk with you about it.

Remember we are truly all in it together. Call the Parents Helpline at 1-800-CHILDREN for support. Circle of Parents support groups and nurturing parenting programs are now on-line as are child sexual abuse prevention trainings on Event Brite. Safe care for infants or shaken baby syndrome prevention training is also posted on Event Brite. Go to
pcavt.org to download a copy of the Vermont Parents Home Companion and other resources.

Call 2-1-1 for information and referral to all available services and help for food, health needs etc. Together we will get through this and find our way back to safe, healthy homes, schools and communities!

We continue to be Vermont Strong!

For all our children,

Linda E Johnson, executive director of Prevent Child Abuse Vermont

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