Towards a safe childhood

Page 1

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Towards a safe childhood

A child needs a parent even when their behaviour stirs uncomfortable emotions in the parent. When children have tantrums and behaves challenging, their behaviour is sending out an important message: they need a parent. It is a parent’s duty to control both their own and their child’s emotional state; this way, the child can learn how to control his or her own emotions independently. Children also need boundaries, The relationship between child and parent is the most important relationship in a child’s life. It has a significant impact on the child’s growth and development. Children need to be cared for and nurtured and made to feel that they are loved and respected for who they are. Children are learning new things and need a parent to stand by them,

and boundaries that are set out in a positive way create security. Parenting requires the ability to talk to, justify and negotiate with a child. Everyday routines such as bedtimes and meal times are permanent boundaries that allow everyone’s energy to be focussed on other things.

r a ch il d It is im po rt an t fo to fe el lo ve d.

Show that you like your child and enjoy being with them. Touch, hug and kiss. Let your child know that they are important! Show an interest in your child. Notice when they show initiative and try be involved in the things they are interested in. Maintain close communication with your child. This promotes the feeling of belonging and supports the child’s desire to learn. Encourage and praise – never belittle or underrate your child!

Offer encouragement An adult’s playful, curious and empathetic attitude towards a child creates a strong bond between the two. Positive interaction facilitates the child’s learning and emotional skills as well as the development of social skills. When a child feels safe, it is easier for them to accept their parent’s guidance, rules and values. The feeling of being loved and respected as well as being praised for successes are the foundations for a child’s healthy selfesteem.

se lf-e st ee m A ch il d’ s he al th y al lo ve . is ba se d on pa re nt

Some parenting methods can be harmful control their behaviour by hurting them or causing them to feel uncomfortable in some other way. Examples of disciplinary violence are pulling a child’s hair or pushing them, calling them names, insulting them or yelling at them, leaving the child alone or denying them love. People often justify disciplinary violence with educational goals, and it can also be used to strengthen the adult’s authority. Using violence in parenting may make Parents want what is best for their

a child obey a parent at that moment, but

children, but being busy, tired and lonely

it is harmful to the child’s development

can be a burden to parents. The child’s

in the long run, and it damages the

needs may seem like demands, and

relationship between the child and the

this can sometimes take the pleasure

parent. It creates aggressive behaviour

out of parenting. Difficult situations in

and other behavioural problems and

everyday life may make parents turn

undermines the child’s self-esteem. The

to methods based on various types of

child will also learn that it is acceptable to

emotional or corporal punishment.

resort to violence and will be more likely

This is disciplinary violence: actions

to be violent in relationships with other

taken by an adult to punish a child or to

people later in life.

re ly on yo u Yo ur ch il d ca nn ot of yo u. if th ey ar e sc ar ed .

There are many ways to Maltreatment children Children are the most vulnerable members of our society. About one Finnish child in ten is mistreated in some way. Maltreatment is often invisible and it can be difficult to notice as it often stays in the privacy of the home and within the family; parents will not talk about it, symptoms vary from

It is also neglect if a child is not offered

one child to the next, and some children

sufficient stimulation and guidance, or is

have no visible symptoms. Children can be

not provided with proper clothing and pro-

maltreatment even in families that appear to

per healthcare.

be doing fine.

If a child does not have sufficient positive interaction or is not loved by a

Neglect is the most common form of

parent, or if the parent is emotionally

maltreated. It often progresses little by little,

absent, this is what is referred to as

and it is also often unintentional; the parent

emotional neglect. The parent may have

is not able to meet the child’s needs.

a negative attitude towards the child, or

Physical neglect refers to a situation

the parent may not recognise the child’s

where a parent does not ensure that a child

individual needs or respect the child’s

is fed, clean and getting enough sleep.

psychological limits.

Emotional violence includes suppression, coercion, humiliation, namecalling, exclusion and threats. From a child’s perspective, a parent’s frightening

Maltreatment has long-term consequences

and aggressive behaviour, such as yelling and throwing things, is emotional

If a small child is maltreated, it affects


the structure and function of their brain as well as, consequently, the child’s

Physical violence harms the child’s

development in general and their entire

health and causes pain. It can be mild


or serious, and at its worst it can lead to

A maltreated child may have various

death. Other examples of physical violence

symptoms. They can be restless, aggres-

include hitting, hair pulling, pushing,

sive, unsociable or distressed. They may

force-feeding and shaking the child.

have problems with sleeping or eating, headaches or stomach aches or they may

Other examples of maltreatment include

wet the bed.

sexual abuse and a behavioural pattern

The insecurity caused by maltreatment

in which a caregiver fabricates, exaggerates

makes it difficult to learn new things, and

or induces emotional or physical

maltreatment children who are at school

health problems to a child. It must be

may have learning difficulties. Maltreat-

remembered that emotional violence is

ment children are likely to have physical

involved in all forms of maltreatment.

and mental illnesses later in life.

n go es un no ti ce d. Mal tr ea tm en t of te

th e fa mi ly. y of th e ho me an d ac iv pr e th in s in It re ma

Anger is the wrong response to anger Even if a parent is unhappy or angry,

It is important for a child to know that

they must never take it out on the child.

their parent is coping. Parent, too, needs

If the child´s behavior causes unpleasant

sufficient sleep and rest, a healthy diet,

feelings to the parent unhappy, it must

exercise and time for themselves. It also

be remembered that the child does not

helps to share parental responsibilities

want to hurt anyone.

with a partner and other family members.

Usually there is an explanation for a child’s inappropriate behaviour. A small child does not have the skills to control

Peer support from adults in the same situation is invaluable. A parent’s own childhood experiences

their emotions and behaviour. A child that

influence the way they behave as a parent.

is throwing a tantrum is tired, hungry or

Painful childhood experiences that have

needs a hug, attention and someone to

not been dealt with may reduce a parent’s

be close to. In time, the child learns from

ability to act like a parent, particularly in

their parent how to control their emotions

challenging situations. Parents should go

and behaviour, and the parent is an

through their own childhood experiences:

important role model in this process.

how did my parents behave with me? What

The parent should also learn some

kind of interaction and care did I receive?

methods to calm themselves down when

How was I able to show my feelings

their emotions take over. The best way to

and how were conflicts handled in my

calm down is to take deep breaths. Taking

childhood family?

a timeout may also help.

ay li fe le in th ei r ev er yd A ch il d ne ed s pe op mp an y. wh o en jo y th ei r co

Help is available im po rt an t Yo u ar e th e mo st il d’ s li fe . pe rs on in yo ur ch Help should be sought early. Most mothers and fathers encounter difficult emotions and are sometimes at a loss as parents. It may be the first sign of problems if there is no joy in everyday life or if being with the child is no longer a pleasure. Needing help is nothing to be ashamed of. Talking to a partner, friends, family or professionals who are involved in the family’s life is a good idea. The member associations of the Federation of Mother and Child Homes and Shelters also offer support to families so that they can build a safe home life.

The Federation of Mother and Child Homes and Shelters Asemamiehenkatu 4 A | 00520 Helsinki Information, peer support and help is also available online:

graphig design: rohkea ruusu | Images (except page 8) jaana litmanen

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