Pinwheels for prevention: Putting Children First

Col. Dawn Lancaster, 78th Air Base Wing vice commander, plants pinwheels Wednesday as part of the Child Abuse Prevention Month kickoff event at the Houston County Courthouse in Perry. During the month the pinwheels, which represent childhood innocence, will be rotated to locations around the county. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tommie Horton)

Col. Dawn Lancaster, 78th Air Base Wing vice commander, plants pinwheels Wednesday as part of the Child Abuse Prevention Month kickoff event at the Houston County Courthouse in Perry. During the month the pinwheels, which represent childhood innocence, will be rotated to locations around the county. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tommie Horton)

ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. -- April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month. During April, the base's Family Advocacy Outreach Program will offer tools to help educate the community about detecting and reporting child abuse.

Prevention works and each of us can do our small part to protect children. The local campaign kicked off Wednesday with the Child Abuse Prevention Month Proclamation Signing and the placing of pinwheels for prevention at the Perry Courthouse. 

The pinwheel has been chosen as a symbol in child abuse prevention to represent childhood innocence that must be protected. Use a pinwheel as a means to inspire conversation about child abuse awareness; you can plant a pinwheel garden, or just place one somewhere easily seen. The best thing you can do with a pinwheel is to enjoy it on a windy day with a child.

Be aware of factors that contribute to child abuse. Understand that parents who have the potential for abuse frequently feel lonely and isolated. Lend a supportive, non-judgmental ear when they are having a difficult time. Listening with compassion is a powerful tool. Offer to babysit if they need, or just include them in your family's activities to break up the routine.

Know your own limitations. Being a parent is not easy and we all have questions. Learn to take time to nurture yourself. Remember that the difference between an abusive parent and a non-abusive parent is 10 seconds. Take a time out for yourself and never hit your child when you are angry. 

Empower your children. Give your child appropriate ways to feel their own power. If parents do not allow children some areas of control, then children will find inappropriate ways to feel their power. Give your child choices, ask their advice, or seek their help with household tasks.  

Helping other parents in times of overload is not limited to those you know. When you see a child mistreated in public you may feel helpless but there are positive things you can do. One suggestion is to speak out supportively. Any parent knows the embarrassment of a child throwing a scene in a store. Strike up a conversation with the adult, "It looks like it has been a long day for both of you." Divert the child's attention by talking to them, "My child used to get upset like that, too." Do what you can to  de-stress the moment.

Children are vulnerable and helpless; you are not.   

For more information on how to help prevent child abuse, call the Family Advocacy Program at DSN 497-8398 or 478-327-8398.