Schools closed for social distancing may take away some children’s only refuge from abuse. When a child is being abused at home, he may be too afraid to ask for help. He might not know that it’s an option. It’s up to the rest of us to look out for the children. We must keep our eyes and hearts open so that we may be of aid and comfort to the most vulnerable among us.

What Does Child Abuse Look Like?

Believe it or not, some people don’t know what child abuse looks like. They may have grown up with it and just thought that their behavior was “normal.” They reason that that is how some people parent. 

So that there is no grey area, let’s look at some of the signs of child abuse that are exhibited by the child:

  • The child has poor hygiene. Clothes are dirty or ill-fitting. His hair is uncombed. He smells unwashed or like urine or feces.
  • Unexplained burns, bruises, bites, broken bones, or other signs of being struck.
  • Excessive absences from school or regular activities.
  • Doesn’t want to go home.
  • Doesn’t seem to trust adults.
  • The child is very thin.
  • The child reports nightmares or bedwetting.
  • Running away.
  • Suicidal gestures or attempts.
  • Reporting abuse.
  • Sudden change in appetite or behavior.
  • Extremes in behavior (example: acting infantile or overly adult).
  • Is delayed in physical or emotional development.

Here are some signs exhibited by the parent(s) or caregiver:

  • Unduly critical or demanding.
  • Sees the child as worthless, bad, or too much trouble.
  • Clearly does not like the child.
  • Swears at the child.
  • Screams at the child.
  • Hits the child.
  • Calls the child names.
  • Makes fun of the child.
  • Treats the child as if he’s invisible.
  • Looks to the child to provide for the adult’s emotional needs.
  • Abuses drugs or alcohol.
  • Keeps the child isolated from others.
  • Is unresponsive to the child’s needs.

To determine whether or not neglect or abuse is happening, one has to look at the whole picture, not just one item. It could be that the family is poor or it’s a single family household. 

What Can You Do?

If you are in a situation where you need help taking care of your children, call your local Social Services department to find out what help is available. They may be able to help with child care, food, parenting classes, or counseling. If you need help with anger, discipline, or boundaries, a private counselor can help too.

If you think that someone in your family or community is abusing their children, you can call your local Child Protective Services. They will investigate and see whether the family needs help. They then create a plan to keep the children safe and support the parents in being better parents. 

We all have only one childhood. When parents aren’t keeping their kids safe, it’s up to the rest of us to step up and intervene – especially in times like these when the opportunity for abuse is increased due to isolation created by the corona virus.