Child Abuse Prevention Month: Developing Resilience in Children

Child Abuse Prevention Month: Developing Resilience in Children

Child Abuse Prevention month is observed in April under the theme “Strengthening Families by Building Resilience”. The Prince William Department of Social Services is the lead agency driving Child Abuse Prevention Month and will take part in organized activities and distributing information and materials that promote a better understanding of healthy child and family development.  By ensuring that parents have the knowledge, skills, and resources they need to care for their children, we can help prevent child abuse and neglect.

When we look back over the last two years, a word that surfaces on both a societal and personal level for many individuals is adversity. Global events have presented and tested each of us in ways we never could have imagined. Despite the difficulties we have encountered, what continues to become evident is that our resilience plays a vital role in how we experience and come through those hardships. Resilience is the ability to recover from and adapt to the challenges that threaten someone or their functioning. Some call it grit, toughness, or determination but ultimately it is the strength within us that enables us to get through difficult times. In short, resilience is the ability to overcome or bounce back from serious hardships.

We often forget that the children in our lives also face challenges and difficulties. Fostering resilience and associated skills should begin early in life. We know that Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACES) can cause long-term and lasting impacts on our physical health and emotional well-being, but the good news is it is never too early or too late to build resilience; we need to know what to do. Here are a few tips to help promote and develop resilience in children.

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA), three key factors contribute to childhood resilience: relationships with caring adults, cognitive development and problem-solving skills, and self-regulation.

  • Relationships with caring adults – it has been noted that one of the most important factors in building resilience in children is having at least one strong, stable, and supportive relationship with an adult.
    • children are successful when they have stable supportive adults in their lives and have meaningful ways to stay connected to these individuals
  • Cognitive development and problem-solving skills – help children think through problems and work to identify solutions
    • Help children engage in problem-solving activities while they play
    • Balance active problem solving with acceptance – encourage skill development while acknowledging the feelings that the child is experiencing
    • Recognize when the child is stuck or frustrated and help them shift their thinking to find a solution in a different way
      • Example question: ‘What else could you do?’
    • Self-regulation – allows the child to manage thoughts, feelings, and behaviors in a way that enables goal-directed actions
      • Teach and provide opportunities for children to identify their feelings
      • Help them learn to manage their emotions
      • Teach strategies to calm themselves
      • Caregivers should model their own positive self-regulation in stressful situations

We must remember that “The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall” – Nelson Mandela 

April is a time to celebrate the important role that communities play in protecting children and strengthening families.  By building resilience and working together, we can keep children and families safe and well.  If you are concerned about the abuse or neglect of a child, please report it by calling the Protective Services hotline at 703 792 4200 or the State Hotline, 24 hours a day, at 1-800-552-7096.

The Prince William Department of Social Services will again plant a Pinwheel Garden at the McCoart Administration Building, and the public is invited to help! Meet in the plaza between McCoart and the Development Services Building on Tuesday, April 5, 2022 at 1:15p.m. Look for the blue balloons. Attendees are encouraged to show their support by wearing blue.

The Pinwheels for Prevention Project encourages individuals and organizations to join together and raise public awareness of the importance of preventing child abuse. Pinwheels symbolize a healthy and happy childhood, something every child deserves.