Crow Wing Energized

Healthy Community Grants Available through Crow Wing Energized

Healthy Community Grants Available through Crow Wing Energized
First application deadline April
15

 

Crow Wing Energized is awarding Healthy Community Grants to support efforts to move our community to a place where the healthy choice is the easy choice.

 

Grant applications to Crow Wing Energized, a grassroots community movement led by Essentia Health and Crow Wing County Community Services to improve health and wellness in our community by making healthy choices essential, are being accepted. The first application deadline is April 15, 2016.

 

Organization criteria for applying includes serving or located within Crow Wing County, including but not limited to: neighborhood, youth, or environmental groups; faith-based organizations; health care organizations; civic or citizens’ associations; economic development agencies; local government entities; local businesses; school districts and other similar groups. Applicants are not required to be incorporated 501(c)3 organizations.

 

Applicant projects need to align with the Crow Wing Energized guiding principles as well as Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) SHIP’s financial guide:

  • Creating and sustaining a united approach to improving health and wellness in Crow Wing County
  • Collaboration towards solutions with multiple stakeholders (e.g. schools, worksites, medical centers) to improve community engagement and commitment focused on improving community health
  • Being anchored in evidence based efforts around greatest community good that can be achieved through available resources.

 

The Healthy Community Grants are made available through Statewide Health Improvement Program (SHIP) funding that was awarded to Crow Wing Energized. Grant applications are reviewed by the Crow Wing Energized Community Leadership Team and Goal Groups:

Healthy Choices goal group develops sustainable strategies and encourages healthy choices by increasing access to healthy foods, increasing active living opportunities, and helping to promote and support the healthy environments.

Mental Fitness goal group encourages and equips citizens in achieving and maintaining mental fitness by building networks throughout the county for achieving resilience, increasing the practice of intentional choices to help reduce stress and anxiety, and educating our communities to increase the knowledge of mental fitness so it will help to make positive choices regarding their overall health.

Workplace Wellness goal group helps to create a healthy and energized workforce by increasing employee satisfaction, maximizing productivity, minimizing absenteeism, and helping to reduce health care costs.

 

For a Healthy Community Grant Application visit crowwingenergized.org “Resources” page or to learn more about Crow Wing Energized and what it’s community partners are currently doing, please contact Cassie Carey – Crow Wing Energized Coordinator at Cassie.Carey@crowwingenergized.org or 218-828-7443.

Adverse Childhood Experiences – A Problem With a Solution

By: Lowell Johnson, Crow Wing Energized Mental Fitness Goal Group and ACE Interface Network

 

Recent research in brain development and public health has confirmed what we have known by common sense and other research for years. When children are mistreated, they grow into adults who have physical, mental and social problems.

 

The Adverse Childhood Experience (ACE) study, initially done in the 1990s and widely replicated since, proves that child maltreatment causes harm to individuals, families, and communities. The ACE research studied 17,000 adults. Participants were asked if any of the following happened to them as children.

 

Physical or emotional neglect were two forms of adversity. The category of abuse included its physical, emotional and sexual manifestations. Under the general category of household dysfunction, participants were asked if in their family they had mental illness, alcohol or chemical dependency, witnessed domestic violence, were separated from a parent, or had an incarcerated family member.

 

The total number of ACEs is ten, and each participant was given an ACE score ranging from 0 to 10. This ACE score was then compared to the extensive medical histories of each adult.

 

One important finding was that 67% of adults had one or more ACE. Participants with four or more ACEs (16%) had significantly greater chances of suffering from a range of medical and/or emotional and social problems.

 

These conditions included heart, liver and lung disease, diabetes, HIV, depression, suicide attempts, anxiety, obesity, sexual behavior problems, domestic violence, unintended pregnancy, and workplace problems.

 

In addition to the statistical link between ACEs and health problems, advances in neuroscience have now shown why the ACEs do so much damage to brain development.

 

When people are under stress, the brain produces a chemical called cortisol to help us deal successfully with the stressful situation. Cortisol is normally metabolized within 20 minutes, and the brain returns to a normal functioning state. The problem is that children growing up in ACEs environments experience toxic doses of cortisol. These toxic doses interfere with normal brain development and can actually destroy seedling cells in the brain, which are meant to develop later in life.  We now know that the brain is not fully developed until the mid-twenties. Healthy brain development is something we need to pay attention to and promote for a long time.

 

Fortunately, although ACES are a huge social and financial problem for society, research also shows us how to prevent and heal from the ACES, or at the least diminish their negative effects.

 

Research shows the solution to the ACES problem lies in building resiliency in individuals, relationships, and communities. The strategies for building resiliency – the ability to bounce back from stressful life situations – involve a concept called neuroplasticity. Neuroplasticity refers to the brain’s ability to form new neural pathways throughout our lives. People who have had negative patterns of thinking, emotions and behavior wired into their brains from ACEs can literally re-wire their brains to more positive patterns.

 

Fortunately for our community, the Mental Fitness Goal Group of Crow Wing Energized is sponsoring a training on November 3 and 4. Participants in this training will learn the ACE Interface framework, which goes in depth into neuroscience, the ACE study, and resiliency building. One significant outcome of this training will be the formation of a local cohort of people able to bring forward ACEs awareness and resiliency building to our community.

 

For more information on this training please visit CrowWingEnergized.org, space is limited.

Checklist for reducing falls at your business or organization

kenBy: Ken Martin, Senior Living specialist at Good Samaritan Society and Matter of Balance instructor through Crow Wing Energized

 

As we start to age, the risk for falls increases more and more the older we get. In fact, one out of every three adults ages 65 or older fall each year.

 

There are many different ways that we can help decrease the risks of falling in our homes, however sometimes we need a little help from the outside world to make our chances of falling less. Most seniors are an active part of our community out and about shopping, dining or attending events on a regular basis. So at your place of employment, worship or volunteering take a look around and address some of common fall hazards that exist.

 

The first thing would be to set up a daily routine of walking around your business or location looking for possible obstacles in the isles or items that haven’t been put away yet. Consider if their is equipment that is frequently used but not put away.

 

Another item to consider is marking steps or uneven ground with bright colors. Variations in floor height, even slight, can impact he stability of someone.

 

The next item to look at would be things like throw rugs or loose carpeting that could create a tripping hazard. Walking surfaces account for a significant portion of injuries as reported by the State of Minnesota.

 

Much like looking at the floor, we should spend a little time looking up at the lighting in our stores as well. Many seniors are impacted by different forms of eye diseases that can reduce their vision and are not able to see as well when dim lighting is used. Making sure all the isle or walk ways are lit well.

 

In a home, falls are of higher risk in bathrooms. Much like our home we should make frequent visits to the bathrooms to make sure the floor is dry and there are no loose paper towels or other obstructions lying on the floor that could cause a fall. I am pleased to often see cleaning schedules posted in area community restrooms. Remember to thank staff for not only cleaning this space but also making it safe!

 

Moving out doors and looking at the sidewalks and parking lots would be the next concern. With winter approaching, have a plan and the proper equipment to keep the sidewalks clear. This may include applying salt. In the summer time, making sure handicap spots are marked well and have a ramp accessible for those with walkers. Also repair any holes and uneven joints in the parking lot or walkways. One last thing to look at outside is, as our daylight gets shorter, have proper lighting on the outside of the building much like having the proper lighting on the inside.

 

These are just a few suggestions in looking to help prevent falls, and helping our seniors to enjoy a quality of life by being able to be out and about in a safe walk at our many different businesses and organizations.

 

To learn more about preventing falls through Matter of Balance classes, checklists for making your home safe and more visit CrowWingEnergized.org.

Ready, Steady, Balance: Are You at Risk of Falling?

smc152_143_steichenBy: Mike Steichen, Essentia Health Rehabilitation Director

 

The National Council on Aging has designated Thursday, September 22 as National Falls Prevention Awareness Day. As a healthcare providers we know that many falls can be prevented by making changing in your environment, like removing floor rugs, and being aware of your risk for falling. I along with others trained professionals are offering free falls assessments in Baxter, Brainerd, Crosslake and Walker for community members to stop by 10 minutes to complete a falls assessment to determine their risk of falling. These free screening events is hosted by Crow Wing Energized are intended to connect those needing more support with the resources and educations that is available so they can confidently go into winter when the sidewalks become more slippery.

 

Thursday, September 22

8 – 10 am The Center, 803 Kingwood St, Brainerd

9 – 11 am Carefree Living, 2723 Oak St, Brainerd

10 am – 12 pm Brainerd Area YMCA, 602 Oak St, Brainerd

10 am – 12 pm May Creek Senior Living, 303 South 10th St, Walker

11 am – 1 pm Good Samaritan Society Bethany, 804 Wright St, Brainerd

11 am – 1 pm Crosslake Lutheran Church, 35960 County Road 66, Crosslake

1:30 – 3:30 pm Essentia Health St. Joseph’s – Baxter Clinic, 13060 Isle Dr, Baxter

 

Tuesday, September 27

9 – 11 am Northern Lakes Senior Living, 8186 Excelsior Rd, Baxter

Attendees at the screening event will be asked to complete one or both of the following falls screening tests:

Timed Up and Go (TUG)

Directions: Wear regular footwear and use a walking aid if needed. When you hear “Go,” you:

  1. Stand up from the chair
  2. Walk to the line on the floor at your normal pace
  3. Turn
  4. Walk back to the chair at your normal pace
  5. Sit down again

High risk of falling: takes 11 or more seconds

Consult your doctor or physical therapist for advice on exercises to improve your strength. Attend A Matter of Balance class.

  • Low risk of falling: takes 10 or less seconds

 

Stand up and be strong

Directions: Sit in a solid chair. Without using your arms, see how many times you can stand and sit in one minute.

  • High risk of falling: 8 or fewer times

Consult your doctor or physical therapist for advice & instruction to improve your strength. Attend A Matter of Balance class.

  • Moderate risk of falling: 9-12 times Do exercises to strengthen your legs and core. Seek assistance from your doctor or physical therapist if you have difficulty doing the exercises on your own. Attend A Matter of Balance class.
  • Low risk of falling: 13 or more times

 

 

A Matter of Balance: Reducing your Risk of Falls Class

A Matter of Balance is an award-winning program designed to manage falls and increase activity levels. The free class is a series of eight weekly sessions that include how to:

  • view falls as controllable
  • set goals for increasing activity
  • make changes to reduce fall risks at home
  • exercise to increase strength and balance

 

The next Matter of Balance classes begin:

  • Wednesdays starting September 28 from 1:00-3:00pm at The Center, 803 Kingwood St, Brainerd
  • Mondays starting October 3 from 9:30–11:30am at Essentia Health-St. Joseph’s Medical Center, 523 North Third St, Brainerd
  • Tuesdays starting October 4 from 9:30–11:30am at Northern Lakes Senior Living, 8186 Excelsior Rd, Baxter
  • Wednesdays starting October 5 from 1:00-3:00pm at Crosslake Lutheran Church, 35960 CR 66, Crosslake
  • Tuesdays starting October 11 from 9:30–11:30am at May Creek Senior Living, 303 South 10th St, Walker
  • Tuesdays starting October 11, 1:00-3:00pm at Lutheran Church of the Cross, 5064 CR 13, Nisswa
  • Thursdays starting October 13 from 11:00am-1:00pm at Hedlund Chiropractic, 113432 Elmwood Drive, Suite 3, Baxter

Crow Wing Energized and Central MN Council on Aging are pleased to offer this education. Class size is limited. To register online visit CrowWingEnergized.org or please call 218-820-5588 or 218-839-8237.

Finding the Balance: Don’t Let Fear Stop You from Your Safety

mimithurlowBy: Mimi Thurlow

“Help! I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!” These are phrases that you may recognize from a popular commercial on the television. I know the stereotypical phrase should be reserved for elderly, however, I personally have had to use it whether I wanted to admit it or not.

 

At 57-years-old the last thing you want to do is admit that you have a fear of falling. Especially when you are a mother to three daughters, a licensed practical nurse (LPN), and a volunteer for the community. There are times when I get so wrapped up in my different roles that I do not want to admit when I needed help for myself.

 

Admitting you need help makes you feel weak and helpless, whether it’s true or not. However, there will come that time in everyone’s life when you have a wake-up call to what needs to be done. I have found myself at the hospital multiple times as a result of falling and admitting it was from a simple fall was very difficult.

 

There is always that fear that if you do admit you hurt yourself because of a fall that you might have your independence taken away. I know I went in thinking that my doctor would want to take away my driver’s license or tell me I would need to go into an assisted living facility. It was a little humiliating. Plus, when you are only 57-years-old the last thing you think is that you need help as if you are 100-years-old and are walking with a cane.

 

Little did I know that my falls were a result of certain medications and personal health problems far beyond my control. How was I supposed to know that I needed to change the amount of medication I needed to take, or the fact that there was something wrong with my blood pressure? My doctor didn’t know either, because I didn’t want to share with him what was going on with my health.

 

Being an LPN I should have known better, but it was the stigma and fear that kept getting in the way for me to admit I needed help. The truth is that a majority of falls can be prevented. It’s this fear that stops most from ever saying anything to a loved one or to a doctor.

 

Once I finally had the courage to admit what was wrong and that I had fallen so many times due to health problems my care team was very helpful.

 

As a result, I was finally recommended to take the evidence-based program, Matter of Balance. This program was facilitated by two trainers at the Pequot Lakes Public Library. It covered using easily applicable strategies every day to help prevent falls so that I could build confidence in myself. I appreciated the program and how it gave me confidence in living on my own, again. It also reassured me that I wasn’t alone in this. So many people out there are struggling with the same fear of falling: my father, my mother, friends, and family.

 

The key to preventing a serious accident and staying safely in your home is to speak up and say something. Do not let fear silence you any longer.

 

A Matter of Balance: Reducing your Risk of Falls Class

A Matter of Balance is an award-winning program designed to manage falls and increase activity levels. The free class is a series of eight weekly sessions that include how to:

  • view falls as controllable
  • set goals for increasing activity
  • make changes to reduce fall risks at home
  • exercise to increase strength and balance

 

The next Matter of Balance classes begin:

  • Wednesdays starting September 28 from 1-3pm at The Center in Brainerd
  • Mondays starting October 3 from 9:30–11:30am at Essentia Health-St. Joseph’s Medical Center in Brainerd
  • Wednesdays starting October 12 from 9-11am at Lord of Life Lutheran Church in Baxter

 

Crow Wing Energized, A Matter of Balance, Carefree Living, and Good Samaritan Society are pleased to offer this education. Class size is limited. To register online visit CrowWingEnergized.org or please call 218-820-5588 or 218-839-8237.

Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs): Physical Neglect

KaraGriffinBy Kara Griffin, MSW, LGSW is the Manager for the Social and Health Programs at Crow Wing County Community Services and co-chair of Crow Wing Energized.

 

Physical neglect is the most common form of child maltreatment. According to the Minnesota Department of Human Services (DHS), “neglect is usually a failure of a child’s caregiver to provide needed food, clothing, shelter, medical or mental health care, education or supervision.” It is often found in families struggling with extreme poverty, substance abuse, mental health issues or family violence.

 

Failure to protect a child from dangerous conditions or exposing a child to certain drugs during pregnancy may also be considered neglect and child maltreatment. This is a complex issue, as different cultures have varying standards by which they view child neglect. For example, a religious belief may prevent a parent from obtaining medical care for their child. Poverty is also a major concern in child neglect and may be its most important cause. In 2013, the State of Minnesota reported that over sixty percent of child maltreatment reports were allegations of child neglect.

 

Building Resilience

Research shows that parents and caregivers who have support—from family, friends, neighbors, and their communities—are more likely to provide safe and healthy homes for their children. When parents lack this support or feel isolated, they may be more likely to make decisions that lead to neglect or abuse. As a community, we can make a conscious effort to support our families through prevention efforts.

 

We can build prevention programs to focus on reducing particular risk factors, or conditions that research shows are associated with child abuse and neglect. While reducing risk factors, it is also important to promote protective factors, circumstances in families and communities that increase the health and well-being of children and families. These factors help parents who might otherwise be at risk of abusing or neglecting their children to find resources, supports, or coping strategies that allow them to parent effectively, even under stress.

 

According to U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the following six protective factors have been linked to a lower incidence of child abuse and neglect:

  • Nurturing and attachment. When parents and children have strong, warm feelings for one another, children develop trust that their parents will provide what they need to thrive.
  • Knowledge of parenting and of child and youth development. Parents who understand how children grow and develop and know the typical developmental milestones can provide an environment where children can live up to their potential.
  • Parental resilience. Parents who are emotionally resilient have a positive attitude, creatively problem solve, effectively address challenges, and are less likely to direct anger and frustration at their children.
  • Social connections. Trusted and caring family or friends can provide emotional support to parents by offering encouragement and assistance in facing the daily challenges of raising a family.
  • Concrete supports for parents. Parents need basic resources such as food, clothing, housing, transportation, and access to essential services that address family-specific needs (such as child care, health care, and mental health services) to ensure the health and well-being of their children. When parents have two or more people who can help them in times of need, both parents and children do better.
  • Social and emotional competence. Children with the ability to positively interact with others, self-regulate their behaviors, and communicate their feelings have relationships that are more positive with family, friends, and peers. Children without these competencies are at greater risk for maltreatment.

Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs): Incarcerated Parents

kathryn-pietzBy Kathryn Pietz has been an active volunteer with organizations serving youth and currently serves as the executive director for the Lakes Area Restorative Justice Project (LARJP). She is certified in Youth Intervention.

 

Did you know having a family member in jail is an Adverse Childhood Experience and could result in life-long problems for the child?

 

Fact: “Children of incarcerated parents are six times more likely to land in prison themselves! Sadly, teens with an incarcerated parent are three times more likely than their peers to drop out of high school and engage in delinquent behavior. An overwhelming majority of kids who have an incarcerated parent use drugs daily to cope.” (www.resiliencetrumpsaces.org)

 

Here is a personal story from a Crow Wing County Jail inmate:

“When I was about six or seven years old, I had my dad in my life. He was always there until my parents started using drugs, and to me, they stopped caring about us kids. He spent the next ten years in and out of jails and prison. I felt like I had lost both parents. My Mom was an addict and was never sober. My dad was nowhere.”

 

“That’s when I started acting up in school, always mad, sad or just hateful to anyone and everyone. At the age of ten, I started stealing cigarettes and liquor from my mother. I remember once my grandmother tried to come get me to visit my dad in jail, but my mom wouldn’t let me go. I cried and cried. Then I started sneaking letters to him. That was nice. By the time I was a teenager I was using liquor, crack and meth. It seems like my life has been in the shadows right behind my dad. Now my parents are sober, but I’m still in and out of county jails.”

 

Fact: The United States incarcerates more people per capita than any other country in the world. In Minnesota, one in six children have a parent incarcerated in jails or prison, or under the supervision of probation or parole.

 

Men make up 90 percent of the prison and local jail population. These men are overwhelmingly young and fathers in their 20s and early 30s. Prisoners also tend to be less educated: The average state prisoner has a 10th grade education, and about 70 percent have not completed high school.

 

Another view on incarceration comes from a Stillwater state prison inmate.

“There is a social stigma associated with having a family member incarcerated. A parent missing from the home due to incarceration leads a child to experience embarrassment, shame, ridicule, and sense of abandonment. “

 

“Incarceration systems operate in ways which add to these problems and promote the deterioration of the parent/child relationship. Because security is primary, facilities of incarceration view the easiest means of securing the facility is by restricting offender contact. Any form of contact, especially physical, is seen as a “security threat”. Visits, phone calls and mail are severely limited and highly scrutinized.” This extreme level of separation doesn’t allow for the most basic functions necessary in a parent/child relationship. The smallest interaction, such as helping with homework or talking through difficulties in the home or school, becomes an almost impossible task. Another harmful effect on children of incarcerated parents is the financial strain of having a parent in prison. With the average prison wage at $0.25 an hour, it limits the way a prisoner can financially contribute to their family’s needs. The burden lands solely on the remaining parent, usually resulting in the family living in poverty. Living in poverty has a negative effect on children.

The disconnection and burden felt by the children and remaining parent inevitably leads to forms of resentment and even hatred. In addition, the remaining parent, feeling overwhelmed and frustrated, may decide to start a new relationship, changing the dynamics of the home.

All of these factors lead to a child being confused and feeling unloved.

 

Building Resilience

Help children with incarcerated parents deal with grief by validating and honoring their experiences and feelings.

Reduce the stigma of incarceration by supporting the development of children’s self-esteem, trust in others and hope for a better future.

Children with incarcerated family members need factual information. Get a copy of How to Explain Jails and Prisons to Children, published by the Initiative Foundation, available in the reception area of the Crow Wing County Jail.

 

Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs): Emotional Abuse

bill-fortune-iii-pictureBy Bill Fortune III is a member of the ACEs and Resiliency Coalition (ARC) and the Circle of Parents Advisory Committee, Lakes Area Restorative Justice Project (LARJP) and Crow Wing Energized Mental Fitness Goal Group.

 

What Is Emotional Abuse?

Emotional abuse of a child (also referred to as psychological abuse) is defined as a pattern of behavior by parents, caregivers, or significant others that seriously interferes with a child’s emotional and social development. Even though it doesn’t carry the same social taboo as sexual and physical abuse, emotional abuse has the same harmful effects on children. According to the Adverse Childhood Experience (ACE) study, one in ten children are emotionally abused. Emotional abuse may include any or all of the following:

Verbal abuse. Adults who use intimidating, threatening or demeaning language when speaking to a child, OR are constantly belittling, shaming, ridiculing or verbally threatening a child, are engaged in emotional abuse.

Rejecting. This is an active refusal to respond to a child’s needs (e.g., refusing to touch a child, denying the needs of a child, ridiculing a child).

Isolating. The parent or caregiver consistently prevents the child from having normal social interactions with peers, family members and adults.

Exploiting or corrupting. In this version of emotional abuse, a child is taught, encouraged or forced to develop inappropriate or illegal behaviors.

Terrorizing. This involves threatening or bullying a child and creating a climate of fear. Terrorizing can include placing the child or the child’s loved one (such as a sibling, pet or toy) in a dangerous or chaotic situation, or placing rigid or unrealistic expectations on the child with threats of harm if the child does not comply.

Ignoring. The parent or caregiver does not respond to the child. He or she may not look at the child, and may not call the child by name.

Emotional abuse is most destructive for children up to age five, but its negative impact continues into the teenage years and beyond. Four factors influence the effects of emotional abuse and influence the risk of poor future outcomes for the child: 1) the quality of early caregiving experiences; 2) the frequency, intensity and duration of the abuse; 3) the child’s temperament, coping strategies, and self-esteem; and 4) external factors such as a positive school experience and supportive relationships in the neighborhood and community.

Symptoms of Emotional Abuse

A child may be experiencing emotional abuse if they appear withdrawn, anxious, clingy, depressed, aggressive, have problems sleeping, or have eating disorders. Children may also wet the bed, soil their clothes, take undue risks, miss school, change eating habits, engage in obsessive behavior, or have nightmares. Children who are emotionally abused often use drugs or alcohol, and may have thoughts of self-harm or suicide.

Building Resilience

The most important factor in building resilience to emotional abuse is the presence of at least one person who can give unconditional love or positive regard, thinks well of the child, and makes them feel safe, important and cared for.

The Resilience Guide of the American Psychological Association suggests that adults:

  • Teach children how to make friends, and monitor and support their efforts in doing so. Encourage children to help others and be a friend in order to get friends. Encourage self-care. Eating properly, enjoyable exercise, and rest are important for everyone. Make sure children aren’t scheduled every moment, with no down time to relax and have fun. Caring for oneself helps children stay balanced and better prepared to deal with stress.
  • Nurture a positive self-view. Help children remember ways they have successfully handled hardships in the past. Stress that these past challenges help strengthen them for future challenges.
  • Encourage empathy, the feeling of another’s pain. Discuss your own or others’ painful experiences in real life, books, or movies.
  • Keep things in perspective. Even when children face painful events, help them look at the situation in a broader way and see a long-term view of life. Although a child may be too young to consider a long-term perspective on their own, let them know that there is a future beyond the current situation and that the future can be good. You are there to help them create a good future.

Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs): Sexual abuse of children

LJohnsonBy Lowell Johnson is a member of the ACEs and Resiliency Coalition (ARC), Crow Wing Energized Mental Fitness Goal Group, and the Brainerd Lakes Area Early Childhood Coalition.

 

The sexual abuse of children is one of the most harmful of the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), resulting in a sense of powerlessness, mistrust and betrayal. According to the ACE study, 21% of adults reported being sexually abused as children.

 

Sexual abuse is defined as when an adult, or someone five years or more older, uses a child for sexual gratification. Sexual abuse can take the form of touching or fondling a child’s genitals; having a child touch or fondle an adult’s genitals; attempting to or having oral, anal, or vaginal intercourse; using a child for pornography or prostitution; or rape.

 

It is important to understand that sex play among children is common and considered developmentally normal. Sex play is not sexual abuse.

 

Most sexual abuse occurs with family members or someone the child already knows, NOT with strangers. Abusers target non-assertive children and develop a relationship with them. They then start the abuse, and use secrecy or threats of harm to continue the abuse.

 

As adults, we need to protect our children. It is important that anyone who sees indications that an adult may be intending to hurt a child intervene by speaking up about the concerning behavior. It can be difficult, or even scary, to start a conversation about someone else’s behavior. Enlist help from family, friends, or professionals. Practice what you might say if a situation arises that makes you uncomfortable.

 

Signs of sexual abuse.

A child may report sexual abuse with words. A direct report is considered to be a child reporting incidents directly to a parent, teacher, non-offending adult or other person in authority. In an indirect report, a child may tell a friend or classmate, hoping they will tell an adult for them.

 

There are also behavioral signs that may indicate sexual abuse. These include

– Sudden reluctance to go somewhere or to be with someone

– Excessive fear of touching

– Excessive fear of a certain gender

– An adult or teen spending a lot of time with a child

– Sudden accumulation of gifts or money

– Expressing affection inappropriately for age

– Overly seductive/adult sexual behavior

– Unexpected sexual knowledge or fixation, use of sexual words

– Fear of affection, fear of any remotely sexual behavior

– Withdrawal from being friendly, doesn’t make eye contact, and decreased attention/focus at school.

– Pain in genital area, rashes, infections

– Constipation or pain in anal area, uncontrollable bowel movements

 

Building Resilience

Prevent the sexual abuse of children by using the following strategies. Men, if you believe part of your traditional role as a man is to be a protector of children, consider these suggestions.

– Teach and use the proper names of ALL body parts

– Talk to your kids about “gut feelings” or instincts

– Explain the difference between a secret and a surprise

– Give your child permission to break promises or tell a lie if they need to in order to stay safe

– Talk with your child about who they can tell if something or someone makes them feel bad or scared

– Set and respect clear family boundaries around privacy and personal space

– Teach kids that it is okay to say “No” or “I don’t like that” – even to an adult. Practice ways to say no with them in various scenarios.

– Show your kids that “NO” and “STOP” are important words and should be honored

– Teach kids that they have control over their body and the right to feel comfortable. No one (even family and friends) should touch them in a way that makes them feel icky or yucky.

– Children should not be forced to have physical contact they do not want (like kissing or hugging relatives). Offer other options like shaking hands or blowing a kiss.

– Clearly explain to your child WHO is allowed to touch the private areas of their body and WHY – Parents, doctors, and caregivers to keep them clean and healthy

 

The content for this article was drawn largely from materials from Sexual Assault Services in Brainerd. Contact them at 218-828-0494 or 888-458-0494 with any concerns or for more information.

Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs): Divorce or Separation of a Parent

This article is one of a series aimed at exploring the problem of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) and their harmful effects on the physical, emotional and mental health of our community. Substantial public health research confirms that mistreatment of children results in a variety of problems for them as they grow into adulthood. Although the problems that result from ACEs create ripple effects throughout our communities, research shows that we can build resilience to the trauma caused by ACEs. Resilience trumps ACEs!

LJohnsonBy Lowell Johnson is a member of the ACEs and Resiliency Coalition (ARC), Crow Wing Energized Mental Fitness Goal Group, and the Brainerd Lakes Area Early Childhood Coalition.

 

One of the most common Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) is the divorce or separation of parents. The effect of divorce on children varies widely, but with proper support, children can adjust to this difficult transition. However, according to the website of FamilyMeans, there are a number of possible negative consequences for children experiencing divorce or separation.

 

Feelings of guilt. Children often blame themselves for their parents divorce, and these feelings of guilt can lead to stress and depression.

 

Poor performance in school. The changing family dynamics of divorce may cause children to be distracted and less able to focus on academic performance.

 

Social problems with peers. Children may have a harder time relating to others, have fewer social connections, or feel insecure socially.

 

Problems adapting to change. Learning to adapt to a new home, school, friends, and changing family dynamics can prove difficult for children.

 

Emotional sensitivity. Feelings of confusion, loss, anxiety, and anger can produce both emotional roller coasters and emotional sensitivity in children.

 

Destructive behavior. Children who have experienced divorce may rebel through destructive behaviors such as smoking, alcohol or drug use, and criminal behavior.

 

Physical health problems. The stress associated with divorcing families can lead to poor physical health in children.

 

Loss of faith in marriage and family systems. Children of divorcing families want to grow up and have stable relationships, but research shows they have divorce rates up to two to three times higher than children from non-divorcing families.

 

Resilience Building

 

While the impact on children of divorcing families can result in serious consequences, parental separation DOES NOT absolutely predict these consequences. Children who successfully navigate the problems presented by divorce have had resiliency building experiences in their lives. According to the article Building Resilience in Children of Divorce, (CHVBV website), the following factors increase child resiliency.

 

Freedom from exposure to extreme conflict. As parents dissolve their relationship, their personal experiences of anger and other intense emotions need to be dealt with in a safe environment where children are not exposed to intense conflict. Children should not be exposed to the extreme angry feelings of one parent towards the other parent.

 

Parent education. When parents participate in educational and support programs aimed at understanding divorce from a child’s perspective, their children benefit greatly. Parents Forever is one Minnesota program that provides this service. Other programs aimed at helping with co-parenting after divorce are also helpful.

 

Therapeutic support. Children and parents can benefit from counseling services by professionals trained in navigating the dynamics of divorce.

 

Routines and stability. Maintaining familiar routines provides reassurance and stability to children undergoing any form of stress.

 

Preservation of holiday traditions or development of new traditions. Keeping holiday traditions intact helps minimize the sense of loss commonly felt by children. As new family systems develop after divorce, the opportunity and necessity for new holiday traditions emerge. Especially when children are involved in the creation of these new traditions, positive feelings of attachment and belonging can develop.

 

Contact with extended family support. Grandparents and other members of extended families can provide needed stability in children’s lives. Opportunities for regular and positive contact with extended family should be part of post divorce planning.

 

Establish non-conflicted ways for transferring children between homes. Especially if parents are unwilling or unable to be civil to each other for the well-being of the children, third parties may need to be enlisted to insure physically and emotionally safe and consistent transfer procedures. The Alex and Brandon Child Safety Center in Brainerd provides this service.

 

Protect and preserve children’s time with peers and for extra-curricular activities. As children grow, their world of extra-curricular activities and peer relationships takes on more importance, and offers another source of stability and positive belonging.

 

Spend time with, and get to know children as individuals. While quality family time and sibling relationships are important for family dynamics, children benefit from one on one time with each parent. Challenging as this may be to implement, healthy families figure out how to plan this time into family life.