To close out Child Abuse Prevention Month, we spoke with one of our expert Child Development Specialists in the ESLS program. Lina gave us a brief Q&A on preventing child abuse and why TFC is such an amazing advocate and support system for parents.
Q: As a professional in the field of child development, how you think the ESLS program prevents child abuse?
A: ESLS prevents child abuse by providing supportive services for our families. We are a helpful and nurturing presence in the home that praises, educates and empowers. We observe the family life and converse about day-to-day parenting topics. We praise the positive as well as educate around family concerns. We do not judge but empower parents to be better role models for their children.
Q: What is your favorite part of being a part of the ESLS program?
A: I truly enjoy the interaction with the families. I like meeting the children and I like the way we meet our families here. It’s not invasive. The families aren’t forced to be here; they’re just here to become better parents.
Q: With that said, many parents believe in spankings. What is your professional take on that?
A: Spankings is a tricky topic. Many parents do believe in spankings and it’s not necessarily if they are bad or good, it’s understanding what is good parenting and not child abuse. Everyone has to look at the results of continued spankings, like have they altered the child’s development in any way.
Q: How have you handled child abuse cases with client families in the past?
A: With my families, I express the importance of understanding what the state views as child abuse. Everyone has their own method of parenting, and that’s fine, but when it comes to what is parenting and what is considered child abuse, we have to refer to what could have their children removed from the home.
Q: What do you think our local community as a whole can do to help prevent child abuse?
A: I think the community needs more education. We all need to think of child abuse in a different way. It’s not just the children that are battered and that you see headlining the news. It’s malnourished, unkept children. It’s children that may not have bruises but are being abused every day. We also need to look at how discipline is handled in the home on a cultural basis.
Q: What makes The Family Center a good place for a program like ESLS?
A: TFC is a good place because we’re a community-based organization. We’re an organization that offers support and guidance, without judgment. Plus, we’re always smiling. A lot of my families say they like it here because we’re always happy. We’re happy people.
Parenting can be rewarding, enlightening and enjoyable. However, it can also be challenging, frustrating and the toughest job a parent will ever have. Children don’t come with a manual or a handbook to refer to when parenting is being challenging, frustrating and tough! We as parents often wonder even before they are born what kind of personality will this little being have? Naturally, one doesn’t foresee those terrible moments when your child has thrown themselves on the floor because you said no to that toy they so desperately want.
There is no single right way to be a parent and there are so many opinions and views on how one should parent. Everyone’s expectations are different. In the end, all parents want is to raise well-adjusted children in a positive nurturing environment. Do you find that you are always screaming or yelling at your children? The Family Center ESLS Program helps families with the demands of parenting using a method that research has proven to work. This method is called Triple P aka Positive Parenting Program. This program teaches parents techniques on how to manage your child during those difficult times.
Does your child always want to talk to you when you are on the phone? Does getting household chores become even harder because your child/children always seem to get into trouble during this time? One common reason children act up during your most busy time is because of one simple reason: Boredom.
Here are some ways to keep your child entertained during the times when you need to cook dinner or clean the house. Although you may not think so but children love to help out …most of the time. When it’s dinner time, let them help out if they are old enough. Children enjoy spending time with their parents. It’s why they crave your attention so much! They may not have the words to say it, but they certainly love to be around mommy and daddy. Let them help cleaning those vegetables, or stirring or mixing.
If your child is too young to help in the kitchen, set them up with an activity prior to you starting your chores. Tell them you are going to set up a special spot for them at the table. Then let them choose between two activities that do not require your constant supervision, such as coloring, or playing with blocks or puzzles. Keeping a child busy and engaged is easier than we think. All it requires is little planning ahead. Another key ingredient of Triple P is Descriptive Praise. We often forget in our hectic lives to praise our children when they are being good. Children thrive when praised, and the more you praise them, the more they will want to behave for you. So next time your child is being helpful, or has sat quietly with that coloring book while you got dinner on the table, let them know! It’s as easy as “Thank you, Julie, for sitting so quietly while mommy cooked. You helped mommy a lot!”
Once you are able to figure out what your child wants when they are being whiney, constantly interrupting, or misbehaving, it’s easy for you as a parent to avoid those moments. Your life will be a little less stressful –and your family, a lot happier!
ESLS Child Development Specialist
Speaking out about child abuse and trauma is one of the most powerful steps a person can take in their journey towards healing. Entering into discussions about abuse on the community level contributes to the validation and legitimization of the experiences of those affected while also raising awareness to bring about change and prevention. Speaking out about these tremendously difficult and terrifying experiences is challenging and those who do speak up are incredibly brave. When we engage in this dialogue, we give our support to survivors but we also open ourselves up to painful emotions, which is why it is important to take care of ourselves. I want to contribute to National Child Abuse Prevention Month by getting counselors, community members, and anyone involved in this issue to take care of ourselves so that we can keep talking and advocating with passion and empathy.
In the counseling field when we talk about taking care of ourselves we are talking about self-care. Self-care is about being mindful of the ways that challenging life experiences and stressors impact our physical, mental, and emotional health. Self- care addresses how to feel valued and meet our needs before, during, and after those experiences. Coping with stress is very challenging and it takes awareness and experimentation, but as we practice self-care, we start to notice the benefits. Engaging in self-care helps you feel healthier and more available to cope with stress. It also helps you to be more present with loved ones and able to give of yourself to others who need you. In the Family Support and Counseling Program we work with clients on self-care because it benefits the client and their family. As counselors we work on self-care because it helps us to be fully present with clients. We also raise awareness about self-care through trainings and workshops.
Later this month, I will be attending the New York State Conference on Child Abuse Prevention. As part of the conference, I will be leading a workshop for mental health professionals on the importance of self-care when working with families affected by child abuse and trauma. I will have the opportunity to educate others on the benefits of self-care and help providers and community agencies increase their ability to provide staff support. I am grateful to have this opportunity because I know it will assist counselors and their clients when working on recovering from trauma and preventing future instances of abuse. I also believe it will help all those who enter the conversation on abuse and prevention keep talking and healing together.
Alicia Leporati, LMHC
Someone once told me that parents hit their children when they don’t know what else to do. A child of immigrants, I immediately understood that statement. Parents, who are disenfranchised, or have less resources at their disposal, are more likely to become frustrated and then lose control when disciplining their children. The Early Support for Lifelong Success PLUS (ESLS) program at The Family Center (TFC) provides parents with the skills to use when they feel stressed and overwhelmed. The best way to prevent child abuse is to empower parents, and help them build their confidence as mothers, fathers and caregivers.
To help parents develop parenting skills and to build community among them, ESLS invites Brooklyn families with young children to join us for activities such as Sign-A-Song, Only Make Believe, and Project Sunshine.
In these groups parents and children are encouraged to sing, dance, be creative and have fun! In Sign-A-Song, parents may learn a song that they would like to utilize outside of group, because, for example, it encourages their child to clean up. A parent can take this new tool, and employ it when s/he is having challenges keeping their home tidy. This will help their child understand what is wanted from them and prevent frustration. Simple skills, like using a routine song to reflect a child’s scheduled activity, can reduce parental frustration and reduce the risk of abuse.
Most importantly, groups such as Sign-A-Song provide a safe space for parent and child to enjoy each other and create a strong bond through shared experiences. Personally, I think the greatest benefit is that parents enjoy spending time with their children. Led by staff who aren’t afraid to be silly and play along, we make it easy for parents to feel comfortable jumping around with their children. The greatest protective factor is a parent who genuinely enjoys his/ her child. The Family Center’s ESLS groups rekindle the fun in parenting.