The holidays can be stressful, especially with family visiting, a busy schedule of festive activities, and having children off of school for a long period of time. During this time of year, adults can feel overwhelmed and may be more likely to unintentionally hurt or neglect children if they don’t have an outlet. Abuse can come in many forms, including physical, emotional or as neglect. Having a support system in place can help take the pressure off the parent, and local pediatricians and primary care providers can help guide parents to local resources, such as the Family Services of the Piedmont.
Keep in mind that healthcare professionals are legally required to report all suspected cases of child abuse to the appropriate county or state authorities.
The holidays also give adults the opportunity to spend more time with their children or children in their extended family. Understanding the signs of abuse can help you recognize red flags and bring it to the attention of someone who can help. Signs of abuse can vary depending on the type of abuse, but can include:
- Unexplained injuries
- Changes in behavior — such as aggression, anger, hostility or hyperactivity — or changes in school performance
- Loss of self-confidence or self-esteem
- Social withdrawal, or a loss of interest or enthusiasm
- Lack of clothing or supplies to meet physical needs
- Lack of appropriate attention for medical, dental or psychological problems, or lack of necessary follow-up care
- Emotional swings that are inappropriate or out of context to the situation
If you notice any of these indicators, and you feel comfortable, talk to the child’s parent. It’s not easy to tell where the abuse is coming from, but express your concern for the safety of their family. If you are still concerned, or if the parent doesn’t seem to be worried, call a 24-hour hotline such as Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline (800-422-4453).
To help prevent abuse, parents should create an open relationship with their children, and put together a support system for themselves when they need help. Unrealistic expectations can burden the child and create tension that can lead to negative interactions. There are many parenting resources that can help parents when they aren’t sure, such as http://www.triplep-parenting.com.
Dr. Whitney Haddix is a pediatrician at the Cone Health Pediatric Teaching Service. Dr. Haddix received a Bachelor of Science in biology from the University of Virginia in 2007. She completed medical school at Temple University in 2012 and her residency in pediatric primary care at the University of North Carolina in 2015. Dr. Haddix completed a chief year at the University of North Carolina in 2016.