April is Child Abuse Prevention Month — a time when people across the country and in North Carolina are raising awareness about the important role everyone plays in making sure children are safe and thriving. The message Prevent Child Abuse North Carolina (PCANC) wants us to remember is “Everyone can make great childhoods happen—especially you, especially now.”
Our world has dramatically changed as we “stay home to stay safe.” Many families are undergoing stress that can be felt by young children, from babies in the womb to elementary school students. Their childhoods may include extended times at home and away from school and peers, changes in routine, anxiety about the future and, for many NC children, a lack of basic needs like food and housing. According to PCANC, “the risk of our nation’s children for experience child abuse and neglect in times of extreme stress and uncertainty is actually quite high.”
So, what does everyone’s role in making great childhoods happen look like during the coronavirus pandemic? An important part of this role is to be a connection. An EdWeek article on social-emotional learning states “Kids—and adults—rely on social connections to get through difficult times. But the era of social distancing has upended all of that.”
Social distancing may keep children physically distant from people outside of their family unit, but there are many ways people can stay connected to children and families during this time. These connections are already happening in communities across the state! See some examples below:
- Parents are making time amidst busy schedules to cuddle babies, listen and talk about fears, create routines and build forts with their children.
- Teachers are reaching out to their students via Zoom calls, phone calls and driving through neighborhoods to check-in with children and show that they care.
- State and local leaders are reading books to children online in English and Spanish.
- Nonprofits and community members are distributing meals and books, with warm hellos in pick-up lines at designated locations.
- Doctors, counsellors and home visitors are reaching out to parents via telehealth and virtual calls to provide connections to needed resources, mental and physical health supports.
- Children are mailing letters and drawings to their classmates and older adults in long-term care facilities.
- Neighbors are organizing scavenger hunts and waving to children playing in their front yards.
- Individuals are contacting NC policy leaders and state Senators to a let them know about issues they care about like child care, employment and education.
The Pathways to Grade-Level Reading Initiative lifts up supportive and supported families as one of three key areas needed to support children on the path to grade-level reading. Supportive families and communities play a critical role in building strong foundations for learning. A stable, secure, nurturing relationship with a competent, caring adult is a key factor in helping young children be ready for school and read on grade level. This includes children being safe at home and having positive connections and interactions with parents, especially during the pandemic. Some indicators to ensure NC is on track to achieving this goal, outlined in the Pathways Measures of Success Framework, include:
- Supports for families, such as informal and formal services to obtain basic needs and enhance protective factors.
- Positive parent/child interactions, such as talking and playing with children to help build strong attachments.
- Skilled and knowledgeable parents, including parents with greater knowledge about child development and parenting skills that support early learning.
Everyone has a role in making great childhoods happen by connecting with NC children and families, especially those at most risk of being isolated. Visit PCANC’s website for more resources.