About this time of year, for more than ten years now, you and your children may have seen gardens of pinwheels planted in the community, at school, day care or a local hospital or nonprofit organization, and wondered, why? It’s because planting pinwheels represents the bright childhoods we all want for children.
Since 2009, as part of the national Pinwheels for Prevention® campaign, the Colorado Chapter for Prevent Child Abuse America, Illuminate Colorado has lead an effort to distribute pinwheels throughout our state to raise awareness for the prevention of child abuse, upstream, before it ever happens. Over time this collective effort grew exponentially with hundreds of local organizations distributing more than fifty thousand pinwheels year after year, to inspire a conversation about the responsibility we have to grow a better tomorrow for all children, together. It was an amazing effort, that is until last year when the pandemic hit Colorado and life changed for all of us. Illuminate was left with 40,000 pinwheels stacked high to the office ceilings, while the need to strengthen families was higher than ever before.
The coronavirus outbreak and its subsequent losses have changed our world permanently. In the United States, and likely your community, parents and professionals alike are still trying to adapt and understand the new landscape that the pandemic has created and its repercussions for raising happy healthy children.
The risk to our nation’s children for experiencing child abuse and neglect in times of extreme stress and uncertainty is quite high. COVID-19 has added stressors to the lives of everyone trying to parent during this pandemic, some more than others, with a loss of employment, school and business closings that necessitated new child care and homeschool arrangements and food insecurity for too many families. But, one thing didn’t change. We always knew how to prevent child abuse—build protective factors. Increasing the protective factors at home, at work and in our communities helps ensure that families don’t become overwhelmed by stress that too often leads to child abuse.
Communities have a BIG influence in families’ lives. Just like a plant is more likely to thrive in a garden with good soil and plenty of sunlight and water, families are more likely to thrive in nurturing communities. This year, Illuminate Colorado is giving away the 40,000 FREE Pinwheels for Prevention® from 2020 to inspire Coloradans to grow a better tomorrow for all children, together. The organization is working to inspire a conversation about how we are all responsible for preventing child abuse, upstream.
Having the Pinwheels Conversation
Far too many people, parents and professionals, alike don’t know how to prevent child abuse. Research has shown five “protective factors” have the power to prevent and reduce the likelihood of child abuse and neglect. When we increase these five protective factors for ALL families, we strengthen families, prevent child abuse and build brighter childhoods. We all need to:
1. Build Parental Resilience
Resilience is managing stress and dealing with your life, even when things get difficult.
Right now, stress is HIGH. You’ve likely felt a little short-temper, yelled or not been your best-self at moments. Everyone needs to practice self-care right now, especially parents. Take care of yourself, to take care of your kids. Share a mindfulness or stress management tip, encourage others parents to give themselves permission to not be perfect.
2. Build Social Connections
Having a network of friends and family helps us feel secure, confident and empowered. Accept help from others and look for opportunities to give back. Reach out to others, talk about what is going on in your life. You’ll be amazed at how much better you feel. Focus on nurturing relationships where you feel respected and appreciated.
3. Build Knowledge of Parenting and Child Development
There is no perfect parent, but knowing what to expect does make the job easier. Discover what to expect as your child grows. Try new skills and tips to help your child progress and thrive. Respond in a positive way when your child misbehaves.
4. Build Concrete Support in Times of Need
Some problems are too big to solve alone. Knowing where to get help in the community can make life easier. Know what help is available in your community. Make a plan for what programs you might need if you were faced with unemployment or severe illness. Reach out and ask for support when needed. Share your story with others about programs and resources that have helped you.
5. Build Social and Emotional Competence of Children
Help children develop skills so they can manage their emotions and build healthy relationships with their peers and adults. Respond warmly and consistently to your child. Allow your child to express their emotions. Model how to be kind and interact positively with others.
So this April, during child abuse prevention month, the hope is you will do more than see pinwheels in your community. The hope is you will plant a pinwheel and by the end of the month, with 40,000 pinwheels planted in front yards and neighborhoods throughout the state, more people will know how to plant the seeds for all children to grow up happy and healthy.
Visit COPinwheelsForPevention.org to order your FREE pinwheels TODAY. Share pictures on social media and follow #growingbettertogether to connect to the movement in your community.