Hello faithful readers and visitors. My heart is heavy as I write this post. Yesterday I attended a vigil for the 28 children in our state that died in 2012 at the hands of parents or caregivers.* As each name was spoken a bell rang one solitary chime. At the same time a baby undershirt painted with a beautiful scene and the child’s name was hung on a line. It was one of the most poignant moments in my life to sit there and know so many children were frightened, hurt, lost and hopeless. The youngest was one day old and the oldest was thirteen.
My heart broke anew that the people entrusted with these precious lives were the perpetrators, the killers. I am even more cognizant that the stress of parenthood can create tremendous pressure on caregivers. That is even more so for Recycled Moms because we are at the age where we should be doing this. Nerves get frazzled; the fuse may be shorter because it has burned for so many decades and many of us were raised in an era when kids were less assertive and needy. The constant running to accommodate schools, sports and other activities wears one out physically and emotionally.
There are many things we can do that to reduce stress and increase knowledge of how to handle pressures and our children. Find a support group that offers childcare. That is respite and even two hours of respite can make the rest of the week go better. If possible, find someone who can spend an hour with you several times a week. They can just talk, help with housework or whatever affords you the most help.
Learn to NEVER put your hands on your child unless it is in love. Hugs, caresses and other tender touches should be all the child ever knows from your hands. Many people spout that old biblical “spare the rod and spoil the child” adage. The writer never intended for readers to interpret this as whipping, spanking or beating children. The rod was something a shepherd used to protect his flock. He would guide them from dangerous cliffs and drive predators away by using the rod. This constant discipline taught the sheep to stay on the right path and to trust the shepherd. The rod was never used to strike or punish the sheep and we should not ever hit our children. If a caregiver never puts an angry hand on a child, there is no possibility of getting carried away and inflicting injury.
Most of all Recycled Moms and other caregivers must admit when they are out of control and seek help. Do not allow a child’s behavior to drive you to a breaking point. Seek help and respite well before you are exhausted and temporarily insane. I am going to list the names of the dead children. As you read them, imagine your child’s name on that list. I did and can tell you it made me fall to my knees. Then go out and put steps into place so this never happens to you and the precious children in your care.
*Other children died at the hands of outsiders, the mother’s boyfriend accounts for most deaths in child homicide.
The five Protective Factors are a great resource and wonderful place to start educating yourself in ways to reduce stress.
Parents who can cope with the stresses of everyday life, as well an occasional crisis, have resilience; they have the flexibility and inner strength necessary to bounce back when things are not going well. Multiple life stressors, such as a family history of abuse or neglect, health problems, marital conflict, or domestic or community violence—and financial stressors such as unemployment, poverty, and homelessness—may reduce a parent’s capacity to cope effectively with the typical day-to-day stresses of raising children.
Nurturing and Attachment
Children’s early experiences of being nurtured and developing a bond with a caring adult affects all aspects of behavior and development. When parents and children have strong, warm feelings for one another, children develop trust that their parents will provide what they need to thrive, including love, acceptance, positive guidance, and protection.
Research shows that babies who receive affection and nurturing from their parents have the best chance of healthy development. A child’s relationship with a consistent, caring adult in the early years is associated later in life with better academic grades, healthier behaviors, more positive peer interactions, and an increased ability to cope with stress.
Parental Knowledge of Child Development and Parenting Skills
There is extensive research linking healthy child development to effective parenting. Children thrive when parents provide not only affection, but also respectful communication and listening, consistent rules and expectations, and safe opportunities that promote independence. Successful parenting fosters psychological adjustment, helps children succeed in school, encourages curiosity about the world, and motivates children to achieve.
Concrete Support for Parents
Many factors affect a family’s ability to care for their children. Families who can meet their own basic needs for food, clothing, housing, and transportation—and who know how to access essential services such as childcare, health care, and mental health services to address family-specific needs—are better able to ensure the safety and well-being of their children.
Partnering with parents to identify and access resources in the community may help prevent the stress that sometimes precipitates child maltreatment. Providing concrete supports may also help prevent the unintended neglect that sometimes occurs when parents are unable to provide for their children.
Parents with a social network of emotionally supportive friends, family, and neighbors often find that it is easier to care for their children and themselves. Most parents need people they can call on once in a while when they need a sympathetic listener, advice, or concrete support. Research has shown that parents who are isolated, with few social connections, are at higher risk for child abuse and neglect.