Stress-bust­ing ex­er­cises help pre­vent child abuse

The Buffalo News - - OPINION - By Alicia Wiec­zorek Alicia Wiec­zorek is Clin­i­cal Ser­vices Di­rec­tor at New Di­rec­tions Youth and Fam­ily Ser­vices Inc., based in Western New York.

April is Child Abuse Pre­ven­tion Month. One in seven chil­dren ex­pe­ri­ence abuse, ac­cord­ing to the Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Pre­ven­tion. Life stres­sors in­crease the chances of un­healthy de­ci­sion mak­ing, poor cop­ing skills and neg­a­tive con­se­quences; in­creased stress may re­sult in the loss of emo­tional and phys­i­cal con­trol and may ul­ti­mately lead to long-term emo­tional and phys­i­cal ef­fects ex­pe­ri­enced by our chil­dren.

What can par­ents and care­tak­ers do to re­duce stress and in­crease pos­i­tive ex­pe­ri­ences with their chil­dren?

Give your­self a time­out: It’s OK to ad­mit that you need to take a breath, col­lect your thoughts, and recharge. With so many re­spon­si­bil­i­ties, as par­ents we of­ten for­get to stop and think be­fore we act.

We ex­pect this from our chil­dren yet fail to see the value for our­selves. Role mod­el­ing how to briefly walk away from a stress­ful sit­u­a­tion be­fore los­ing our tem­per is the best way to teach those who “look up” to us how to han­dle con­flict.

One day at a time:Bills, work, school projects, the birthday party this week­end … the de­mands go on. Each day, list three rea­son­able tasks to ac­com­plish. Then, add one thing you and your child will do to­gether to cel­e­brate a suc­cess­ful day. Cel­e­brat­ing suc­cess is mo­ti­va­tional and inspiring to chil­dren and par­ents. Cel­e­brat­ing might sim­ply be play­ing a game, tak­ing a walk, or talk­ing while col­or­ing a pic­ture to­gether.

Re­mem­ber what it is like to be a child: Have fun with your chil­dren – it re­lieves stress and im­proves your re­la­tion­ship. How about a spon­ta­neous dance-off to a fa­vorite song? Maybe your child mas­tered the “Floss” vi­ral dance craze, but do they know you’re a pro at “Run­ning Man?” Cre­ate new moves to­gether, which might be­come the next big hit. Find joy ev­ery day – even just 15 min­utes of fun makes a big dif­fer­ence.

Be present: Un­plug from tech­nol­ogy, lis­ten to what chil­dren tell you, make eye con­tact, and learn from them. Over time your chil­dren will mir­ror the same ac­tions back to you. Be­ing present re­duces the risk of miss­ing non­ver­bal mes­sages, mis­in­ter­pre­ta­tions, and frus­tra­tions, and in­creases the sat­is­fac­tion of your in­ter­ac­tions with each other.

Be­ing mind­ful and in­ten­tional with our thoughts and ac­tions re­duces stress and the risks of poor de­ci­sion mak­ing; it in­creases the value of our in­ter­ac­tions, and im­proves the over­all ex­pe­ri­ences we give our chil­dren, one mo­ment at a time. April re­minds us to fo­cus on child abuse pre­ven­tion; in­cor­po­rat­ing healthy strate­gies year-round shows kids they are loved and helps keep them safe.

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