Commentary by Rosemary Freitas Williams
Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Military Community and Family Policy
April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month. It’s a time to reinforce that each of us plays a role in keeping our children safe and healthy.
A universal truth: Parenting is hard work. While it may be “the toughest job you’ll ever love,” parents definitely have their work cut out for them, and they have my sincere respect. Military parents have additional stressors such as living far away from extended family, deployments and family separations that leave one parent as sole caregiver for long periods.
However, military parents don’t have to go it alone. Numerous resources are available to support parents and help children grow up in healthy and safe environments. These healthy parenting resources are available in person, online or even through mobile apps.
Each parent has his or her own preference for support. If you enjoy face-to-face connections and learn more easily in a hands-on way, you may prefer finding your parenting support and resources through your installation’s Military and Family Support Center or Family Advocacy Program.
You can find family-style support through the very successful, hands-on New Parent Support Program that provides no-cost education, support and home visits for families who are expecting their first child or have at least one child under 3 years (5 years in the Marine Corps).
Connecting with other parents is important. You’ll find these connections through local playgroups, parent support groups and other opportunities.
If you have less time for appointments or prefer to learn at your own pace, you may want to consider online parenting support and resources.
Explore the no-cost 24/7/365 information and services available to you online through Military OneSource. Support includes confidential help that can help you manage your stress and become an even better parent than you already are.
Learn more about healthy parenting by taking an online parenting course like Parenting for Service Members and Veterans at http://militaryparenting.dcoe.mil.
Having parenting tips and games available at a moment’s notice can be golden. There are several mobile apps will make parenting on the go a bit easier.
Discover new games to keep the kids content while shopping or waiting in line at the commissary with Let’s Play, developed by Zero To Three, a national nonprofit organization focused specifically on the healthy development of babies and toddlers.
Enjoy military-life specific parenting tips through the Babies on the Homefront app. It’s free and can be downloaded at http://babiesonthehomefront.org.
Every parent gets stressed from time to time. It’s really OK to ask for help — you’ll be glad you did.
Whether a parent or not, if you see a parent under stress, reach out and offer your assistance. A frustrated parent may just need a sympathetic ear or a little time to unwind, and you can make a difference. Every day is a good day to tell your friends and neighbors about resources like the New Parent Support Program or Military One Source’s confidential help.
April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month, but safety is a year-round effort. And, while it may feel awkward to speak up if you suspect child abuse or neglect, preventing child abuse is everyone’s business.
If you suspect child abuse or neglect, call the National Child Abuse Hotline at civ. 001-800-4-A-CHILD (422-4453), your local Family Advocacy Program, or child protective services.
Each and every one of us plays a role in keeping our children safe and healthy.