‘It shouldn’t hurt to be a child’

Church video examines causes of child abuse, gives some solutions

In conjunction with the Eighth National Conference on Child Abuse and Neglect, the Church announced the release of a new videocassette addressing the issue of child abuse.

The video was shown at an Oct. 24 luncheon, where the Church hosted the conference's executive committee. Attending the luncheon were Elders Russell M. Nelson and Dallin H. Oaks of the Council of the Twelve, Elder John K. Carmack of the First Quorum of the Seventy, and Elder Richard P. Lindsay of the Second Quorum of the Seventy. Representatives from Relief Society, Young Women and Primary also were in attendance.

"Child Abuse: It Shouldn't Hurt To Be a Child," is a documentary intended for use on television and by schools and community organizations. It features commentary from Dr. Louis Sullivan, U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services, and other authorities from around the world.

"Child abuse is a major problem in our society. We have an estimated 1 million or so cases of child abuse that occur annually in our country, of which approximately 100,000 are actually serious," Dr. Sullivan declares in the video.

During the 30-minute presentation, the term "child abuse" is defined, its causes are examined and some solutions are presented.

The video can be purchased for $10 through the Public Communications/Special Affairs Department of the Church, 25th Floor, 50 E. North Temple St., Salt Lake City, Utah 84150.

Helping children to like themselves

  • 15 ways to help children like themselves:
  1. Reward children. Give praise, recognition, a special privilege or increased responsibility for a job well done. Emphasize the good things they do, not the bad.
  1. Take their ideas, emotions and feelings seriously.
  1. Define limits and rules clearly and enforce them.
  1. Be a good role model. Let your children know that you feel good about yourself. Also let them see that you, too, can make mistakes and learn from them.
  1. Teach your children how to deal with time and money.
  1. Have reasonable expectations for your children. Help them to set reachable goals.
  1. Help your children develop tolerance toward those with different values, backgrounds and norms. Point out other people's strengths.
  1. Give your children responsibility.
  1. Be available. Give support when your children need it.
  1. Show them that what they do is important to you. Talk with them about their activities and interests. Go to their games, parents' day at school, drama presentations, awards ceremonies.
  1. Express your values. Describe the experiences that determined your values.
  1. Spend time together. Share favorite activities.
  1. Discuss problems without placing blame or commenting on a child's behavior.
  1. Use phrases that build self-esteem, such as "Thank you for helping," or "That was an excellent idea!" Avoid phrases that hurt self-esteem: "Why are you so stupid?" "How many times have I told you . . . ?"
  1. Show how much you care about your children. Hug them. Tell them they are terrific and that you love them.

(Information from the Utah State Division of Family Services.)

  1. Put your hands over your mouth. Count to 10. Or better yet, 20.
  1. Stop in your tracks. Press your lips together and breathe deeply.
  1. Phone a friend.
  1. Say the alphabet out loud.
  1. If someone can watch the children, go outside and take a leisurely walk.
  1. Take a hot bath or splash cold water on your face.
  1. Pick up a pencil and write down your thoughts.
  1. Close your eyes and imagine you're hearing what your child hears.
  1. Turn on the radio or TV.
  1. Hug a pillow.
  1. Write for prevention information: Nation al Committee for Prevention of Child Abuse, Box 2866, Chicago, Ill. 60690.

(Information from the National Committee for Prevention of Child Abuse.)

Emotional abuse leaves victims with low self-esteem, depression

Another form of child abuse, often unrecognized as such because there is no physical violence, is emotional abuse.

What is emotional child abuse? Emotional child abuse, which is maltreatment that results in impaired psychological growth and development, can be just as damaging as physical abuse.

Acts of emotional child abuse include rejection, intimidation, or humiliation of the child; chaotic, bizarre, or hostile acts producing fear or guilt in the child; lack of nurturing, intimacy, affection and acceptance; and other actions that damage the child's intellectual or psychological functioning or impairment of the child's ability to function normally.

Emotional abuse often takes the form of verbal assault – constant belittling, insulting, criticizing and demeaning – which undermines a child's sense of self-esteem and well-being. It also includes withholding love and affection.

How is emotional abuse identified? There are two types of clues that can indicate emotional abuse. 1. Very low self-esteem (e.g., listlessness, apathy, depression, self-deprecatory remarks) and a serious inability to respond appropriately to the normal behavior of others. 2. Inappropriate or inadequate care by the parent or guardian for the child's emotional well-being (e.g., isolating the child from normal social experiences at school or with peers, punishing normal social behaviors such as smiling and conversing, or placing the child in a consistently negative light.)

Why do some people emotionally abuse children? Most emotional abuse occurs for the same reasons physical abuse occurs. Parents feel isolated, under stress, unable to cope. A lack of knowledge about children's needs or abilities, extreme expectations of children and an inability to empathize can lead to abuse. A troubled childhood characterized by abuse and low self-esteem can also contribute to a parent's abusive behavior. What often sets the emotional abuser apart from the physical abuser is a lack of awareness of the impact of their verbal assaults on the child.

What can be done about emotional abuse? Parents and others must become aware of the consequences of emotional abuse, and so public awareness is critical. Parenting education and helping parents feel better about themselves, form strong bonds with their babies and better ties to their community to eliminate isolation, are all important preventive strategies.

Victims and perpetrators of emotional abuse should receive help. Therapy or self-help groups, depending on the severity of the abuse or the severity of the effects of the abuse, would certainly be appropriate for victims and abusers. Reporting cases of severe emotional abuse to the appropriate authorities would be another method of assuring that help is received.

(Information from the National Committee for the Prevention of Child Abuse Memorandum.)

How to help children protect themselves against sexual abuse

Four elements are important to children's ability to protect themselves from sexual abuse:

  1. Knowledge and ability to identify sexual abuse.
  1. A sense of being able to control their own bodies in exchanges of physical affection.
  1. Assertive techniques for telling someone not to touch them.
  1. Confidence in an adult who will believe them when told about an incident.

Tell your child:

  • Your body is your own. You have a right to privacy in dressing, bathing and sleeping.
  • People touch each other in different ways. Most touches are pleasant and OK. Some are not. If you wonder whether a touch is OK or not, ask someone you trust.
  • You have our permission to say "no," or "Don't touch me that way."
  • You have the right to move away.
  • You have our permission to tell a trusted adult – Mom, Dad, Grandma or Grandpa, your friend's mother, a teacher, counselor, principal, nurse, police, or other adult you think can help you.
  • No one should touch you in a way that makes you feel uncomfortable. No one should touch you on the body parts that are covered by a bathing suit. If someone does, tell your parents immediately.
  • You are not to blame if an adult touches you on the private parts of your body. The adult should know better. It is not your fault.

(Information from Council on Child Sexual Abuse.)