By Jane Herms, Ken Reiss and Nancy Weaver
Special for NKyTribune
We have all been there. You’re out shopping or dining out with friends or family and you notice that a parent and child are really struggling. Maybe the child is collapsing or the parent is screaming. Maybe there is pushing or shoving involved. Everyone around them is watching them and no one knows what to do.
Maybe you were that parent. Or this child.
There are many reasons why parents and their children struggle in public. They may be feeling the stress of everyday life or struggling in public is just the tip of the iceberg of abuse that happens at home. The thing is, we’ll never know the circumstances that brought this parent and child here, and we won’t know how things will turn out for them once we part ways.
But right now, there are plenty of ways to offer support.
We don’t need to understand why the family is struggling or to understand the many reasons they might be struggling. Raising children is difficult. Being in a stressful situation is difficult. As spectators, we don’t have to fix anything or come to anyone’s aid – just stand by our neighbors with calm, support and compassion.
Thanks to the commitment and investment of Kosair Charities, the Face It Movement promotes best practices in child abuse prevention and response, educates and engages the community on how to help families thrive, and advocates for policies to improve the child protection system childhood. With this support, community partners from across the Commonwealth – including the Family Nurturing Center in northern Kentucky – participated in Support Over Silence for CHILDRENa bystander training program that prepares community members and professionals to confidently defuse difficult times between caregivers and their children in public.
The training’s proven, action-oriented programming is designed to teach bystanders how to quickly notice an event, decide what to do, and then provide support in a way that works best for them. It offers an empathy-focused, non-judgmental approach that considers how culture, trauma, and other factors influence parenting and how viewers can positively engage.
Wondering what to say and what to do when you see a caregiver and a child struggling in public? Don’t forget the acronym “KIDS” for some quick tips:
K: share kind words of encouragement
I: Intervene directly with a specific support offer
D: Use Distraction to help defuse the situation or distract from the fight
S: Seek other people to help you if you are unable to commit or if the situation is dangerous
Whether you are a parent, grandparent, concerned neighbor or someone helping, the Face It movement wants to empower you to be a face that ends child abuse in the Commonwealth. We all have a role to play in keeping children safe – whether it’s stepping in to support a stressed parent before harm happens, speaking out in the face of a difficult situation, or reporting to services. Child Protective Services at 1-877-KYSAFE1 if you believe a child has been abused.
April is Child Abuse Prevention Month, an important time to reflect on how you can support caregivers and children without judgment when tensions are high. Remember that even the smallest gesture can have a big impact on a stressed family.
Jane Herms is President and CEO of Family care center; Ken Reiss is Chairman of the Board of Charities Kosair; and Dr. Nancy Weaver is the founder of Support Over Silence for CHILDREN. To learn more about the Face It movement, visit faceitmovement.org.