April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month. In addition to raising awareness about this global problem that affects millions of children, it's also a time to reflect on our own actions as parents -- especially if we grew up in dysfunctional households.
Abuse isn't just physical or sexual. It's essentially the "harmful or injurious treatment of another human being that may include physical, sexual, verbal, psychological/emotional, intellectual or spiritual maltreatment," according to the Encyclopedia of Mental Disorders. "Abuse may coexist with neglect, which is defined as failure to meet a dependent person's basic physical and medical needs, emotional deprivation, and/or desertion. Neglect is sometimes described as passive abuse."
Adults who were abused as children are more likely to abuse their own children compared to adults who were not abused, studies show. Other factors that also lead to abuse include economic stress, lack of support systems, mental disorders and substance abuse.
Laura Ramirez, author of the parenting book, "Keepers of the Children: Native American Wisdom and Parenting," offered some advice to parents in this article from PRWeb. Here's a quick summary:
1. See children as beginners. Have realistic expectations based on an understanding of child development. Don't expect your kids to behave like miniature adults.
2. Be aware of triggers. "By becoming aware of your triggers, you give them less power over you, so that over time, you can learn to rise above them," Ramirez wrote. "This is how parents can stop the cycle of child abuse. It is possible for any parent to overcome a reactive parenting style."
3. Take timeouts when stressed.Parents who are overwhelmed are more likely to commit verbal and/or physical child abuse.
4. Take responsibility for overreacting. Apologize to your children. Instead of making up with a gift, spend time with them by reading a book, making a craft together or doing something that your children enjoy.
5. Learn to be responsive instead of reactive.
What do you do to cope with stress and prevent yourself from lashing out at your kids?