Twenty eight years ago I brought my newborn son home from the hospital. I was afraid and totally unprepared; armed only with two books: my Dr. Spock and “The First Twelve Months of Life”.
It didn’t take long for the first signs to appear. Michael didn’t roll over, crawl, walk or talk in a “normal” time frame and he was just so difficult. There was something wrong but I didn’t know what and the doctors didn’t either. I remember times when I would cry, hitting the kitchen counter in anger and frustration with my little son. Did I abuse my child? Thank goodness, no. But I can understand that feeling of desperation. I felt totally alone and I needed help. No one had prepared me for this. It took years for specialists to diagnose all of his disabilities. All the while, I just did the best I could, ill equipped to handle it all.
Today, my grown son and daughter are the loves of my life and are doing well. I was lucky that somehow I managed. But, what if I had had somewhere to go, someone to teach me how to be a better parent from the very beginning? I know it would have made a difference.
Most of our parenting instincts come directly from our experience with our own upbringing. So, what if your parents had poor parenting skills? You are very likely to adopt many of the same negative behavior unless taught otherwise. Such is the case with most child abuse; the parents, who were many times victims of abuse, continue the cycle not knowing or understanding right from wrong. A social worker told me about a parent who, as a child, had been made to sleep in a dog house, was locked in a closet and had scars on his tongue from where his father had put a gun barrel in his mouth yet when asked if he thought he had been abused he said no.
So, how do we break this cycle? There is help, and you can become part of the solution.
Until I moved to Mooresville NC in 2005 I had never heard of the National Exchange Club. Much like Rotary, it is a national organization with local clubs throughout the country. Their primary national project is the prevention of child abuse through creating and supporting Child and Parenting Centers which offer a wide range of services from working with the Department of Social Services on child abuse cases to parent counseling and training.
As a member of our Mooresville Exchange Club and a board member of our local Iredell County SCAN (Stop Child Abuse Now) Child and Parenting Center I am working with our organization to expand our court related services and to develop new programs that focus primarily on parent education; not just for parents that are forced to attend by the courts, but programs for every parent so that they have the tools ( Love and Logic) to be the best parents they can be.
We had over 1600 cases of child abuse last year in Iredell county and 34 children died as a result of abuse in the State of North Carolina in that same year.
My SCAN Center is tackling this problem from two fronts: counseling and intervention for court ordered cases and prevention through education. We want to remove the stigma attached to attending our parenting classes by inviting all new parents to attend and use our counseling services. Our newest program will enable us to put a small refrigerator magnet in the newborn package of goodies new moms get as they leave the hospital. On this magnet will the the information about our parenting classes and contact information on how to reach our counselors.
Wouldn’t it be great if every new mom and dad had access to parenting classes and counseling and we were able to prevent all child abuse? Join the fight to Stop Child Abuse Now. If you are interested, you can find a list of the Exchange Clubs in your state on their national website. Or if you, a family member or friend are interested in attending parenting classes or talking with a counselor, call your nearest Exchange Club or CAP center. Or, contact me and I will help any way I can.
I am going to leave you with a song by Martina McBride called Concrete Angels