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The COVID-19 Factors that Lead to Child Abuse

With schools closed and many parents working remotely due to COVID-19, families are coming to terms with a new normal that can add significant stress. That stress is made worse when one or more parents lose their jobs altogether. Even a 1% increase in unemployment can result in a potential 20% increase in child abuse or neglect, according to a University of Oxford study

Here’s another startling statistic: The Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline has experienced a 20% increase in calls as compared to the same time last year. Despite this, experts suspect child abuse is being underreported because abused children were often identified by school personnel instead of parents or caregivers. This issue needs to be acknowledged and addressed.

If parents have a better understanding of why this abuse happens, they will be in a better position to counteract the behavior before it has an opportunity to surface. 

Growing Stress + Shrinking Resources = Child Abuse

Child abuse and/or neglect can stem from one or more of the following reasons:

  • Stress from parents: Due to finances, limited support or added pressure

  • Stress from children: Children misbehaving more frequently, issues stemming from COVID-19 fears and limited physical activity

  • Isolation: A magnified (albeit false) sense that you are the only one struggling

  • Limited access to resources: Shrinking support from churches, gyms, workplaces and schools, which have been closed or experienced shortened hours for an indefinite period of time

  • Family separation: An inability to travel has separated families, creating a vacuum

Ways to Minimize Child Abuse

There are several ways of making this temporary part of our lives better for everyone, ways that can decrease stress significantly and lessen opportunities for abuse.

  • Maintain a routine. Have your children shower and put on clothes for “home school.” Don’t allow pajamas. Also, planning a beginning and an end gives everyone a sense of certainty during uncertain times. Plan a routine for yourself as well. At least two goals each day will increase a sense of accomplishment.

  • Develop a designated area. Create a school station so your children can focus better.

  • Take breaks. Pauses are a helpful, welcome part of a new schedule.

  • Pay attention to nutrition. Too much sugar can be detrimental. Snacks should not substitute as meals.

  • Stay positive. Rewards work better than punishment. They’re easier to maintain in the long run. Punishment fosters an atmosphere of frustration and animosity.

Tips for Caregivers

As parents, you aren’t going through this experience alone. Remember this is a shared event happening across the country. These tips will help you manage better moving forward. 

  • Social connection: Social distancing does not mean social disconnection. Use social media platforms to actually see the person you’re speaking with.

  • Create a group for parents. Several apps (including group chats) enable parents to gather, share, learn and support each other.

  • Plan a calendar. Plan a fun activity for most days of the week.

For example:

Movie Monday: Encourage your family to put the name of a movie for everyone to watch in a jar. One person selects it at random on Mondays and everyone watches it together.

Table Game Tuesday: Play a board game together.

Writing Wednesday: Write thank you cards for healthcare workers.

Foodie Friday: Have your family prepare a dish that is out of the ordinary.

  • Watch your expectations. Life has changed dramatically. Do not expect the same from others as well as yourself. Adjust your expectations and strive to be extra kind.

  • Explore other issues. Times of turmoil often bring up unresolved issues. If you’re struggling, there are several telehealth options available to contact a licensed therapist. Insurance plans have made several changes. Take advantage of them.

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