We’ve heard this saying so much in recent years that we may have forgotten how true and powerful it is. Loving communities and great childhoods go hand in hand!
April is Child Abuse Prevention Month and it’s important to understand how the very first Basic, “Maximize Love and Manage Stress,” is the best way to promote great childhoods and help prevent child abuse within our own homes and communities.
What do we mean by “Maximize Love?” Children thrive when their world seems loving, safe, and predictable, and when parents are able to respond to their child’s needs with love. We all have a role to play by supporting the parents around us in simple ways. We’ll give you ideas for this in a minute. But first, we need to talk about stress.
What do we mean by “Managing Stress?” When parents take steps to avoid too much stress and learn to cope effectively when stress is unavoidable, they are “managing stress.” But it’s harder for parents to do this when they’re running on empty and lack support. Too much stress can cause even a loving parent to snap. Imagine a mom who had an overwhelming week at work and was rear-ended while sitting in traffic. To top it off, her child got sick and can’t go to daycare, and she’s already behind at work. If you’re a parent, you know how hard it is to manage this kind of stress in a way that doesn’t negatively impact your children.
The good news is that this mom has a parent or an aunt or friend she can call, someone who can take the kids for a couple of hours or let her talk it out. This doesn’t eliminate her stress, but it does provide the support she needs to cope. She’s able to find perspective, love, reassurance, and maybe even tangible help.
Managing stress isn’t just about healthy coping strategies. Managing stress requires supportive relationships.
Now imagine a mom who had that same stressful week but has no one. Consider parents who live in stress that continues for weeks, months, or years due to poverty, family breakdown, or tragedy, and they have no one to help. We call this “toxic stress.” It’s “the prolonged activation of stress response without the protective factors of things like relational support.” (from Resilience: The Biology of Stress & The Science of Hope)
Relational support is where YOU come in! One of the best ways to support children is by providing support to those who care for them. So, what are some everyday ways YOU can help promote great childhoods right where you are?
Here are 5 simple ideas to get you started:
1. Notice your neighbors. Take the time to get to know the parents around you. When you notice and encourage the parents and caregivers in your community, you help them manage stress. And when you help a parent manage stress, they are less prone to react in unsafe ways and better equipped to respond in love to their children.
2. Serve in your faith community. Have you considered that when you serve in your church nursery, you’re helping parents Maximize Love & Manage Stress? Churches offer invaluable support by providing nursery care and children’s programming so that weary parents can be strengthened mentally and spiritually, equipping them with the rest and renewal they need to keep going.
3. If you’re a grandparent or older adult, support the moms and dads you love. If you’ve already raised your children, consider ways you can support the next generation of parents. Parenting in this modern, digital age is filled with new challenges. Think about practical ways you can lend a helping hand or listening ear. Your presence and wisdom matter!
It’s important to note that a growing number of grandparents today are raising grandchildren. If you know grandparents who are primary caregivers, consider ways you can help, support, and encourage them.
4. Support families who foster.
Foster families are caring for our community’s most vulnerable children, often while raising their own kids. They also spend time getting additional training, managing appointments, and meeting with social workers. We can’t all be foster parents but we can all support families who foster by asking them what they need and stepping in to help.
5. Practice everyday generosity.
Take a meal to a new mom. Send grocery or gas gift cards to a family who’s struggling to make ends meet. Give your gently used furniture or kids’ hand-me-downs to someone who could use them. Offer to babysit.
Ultimately, promoting great childhoods and preventing abuse boils down to this — being a good neighbor. Do you desire the same stability and opportunities for the children of your community that you desire for your own children and grandchildren? It begins with paying attention to simple opportunities you encounter every day. Together, we can help provide great childhoods!
The Basics are 5 fun, simple and powerful ways that every parent can give every child a great start in life!
Here are some resources that can help you on your journey:
– Watch this short video for encouraging ways that real parents are doing Basic #1, “Maximize Love, Manage Stress” in everyday life. Click on the tips at the bottom of the page for Infants 0-12 months and Toddlers 12-24 months.
– Receive regular, FREE resources from The Palmetto Basics.
– If you, your faith community, your organization, or your place of business would like to join us as a Champion for Children, contact us! [email protected].
Thanks for sharing this post and spreading the word about The Palmetto Basics to those within your circle of influence!