By Vi Waln
One summer I went to visit an elderly couple at their home. It was hot. They did not have air conditioning, so the front door was wide open. There was no screen door. They had custody of three small grandchildren. Two of the children were toddlers and one was a baby.
The baby was laying on the couch with just a diaper on. She had a bottle in her mouth. She was covered with house flies. The flies crawled on her but she seemed oblivious to them as she sucked on the bottle. The grandparents seemed not to notice.
I wondered where the parents of the children were. The couple was elderly. I am sure they did what they could to care for the children, but they were elders. Our elders can only do so much. I don’t think it’s fair when young, able parents burden their mothers or fathers with the responsibility of caring for small children.
April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month. There are countless instances of child abuse happening on our lands. The trauma afflicted upon our children affects them throughout their entire life. Abuse scars children in more ways than we realize. Abused children generally grow into adults who abuse their own children.
Last week, a video circulated on social media sites showed a school principal paddling a 5-year-old student. The footage of this incident was taken by the boy’s mother. She indicated it was either allow the paddling or her child would have been suspended.
I didn’t watch the video. Depictions of violence against children make me sick. Even though the mother gave her permission for the man to hit her child, I still believe it was a form of child abuse. When this child is an adult, he will be able to view the video on the internet. I wonder how that will make him feel.
Many people agree with the beating the principal gave the child. In fact, there are many parents out there who believe corporal punishment is acceptable. Many parents use corporal punishment on their own children. I believe “disciplining” your children by hitting them is abuse. When children are subject to corporal punishment, they grow up into mean adults.
April is also Alcohol Awareness Month. Alcohol is a drug. Some people condone the use of alcohol because it is legal. But a drug is a drug. Whether it is legal or illegal, drugs will ruin lives.
Many of us have been affected by alcohol, either through our own drinking or by a close family member who drinks. The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD) website states “more than 7 million children live in a household where at least one parent is dependent on or has abused alcohol.”
Alcohol and other drug use is often linked to child abuse. For instance, last week 3 women were arrested in Sioux Falls, SD. The women were intoxicated and driving around with 6 children, who ranged in ages of 6 weeks to 8 years old, in the vehicle. The women were each charged with 6 counts of cruelty to a minor. The children were placed in protective custody by the Department of Social Services (DSS).
Unfortunately, this is a prime example of why April is designated as National Child Abuse Prevention Month and Alcohol Awareness Month. These children were abused because of the alcohol use by their mothers. It’s a traumatic experience for children to be taken from their parent and placed in the care of DSS.
Some children who are placed in foster care never see their parents again. The last memory of their mother or father is one where the parent was intoxicated or acting violently. That memory is imprinted on their brain for the rest of their life. Experiences like the one those 6 children went through could scar them for the rest of their lives.
Alcohol and drug use have caused many of our children needless pain and suffering. Oftentimes, the parent’s choice to “party” changed the lives of their children forever. The child stands a great chance of growing into an adult with a myriad of mental health issues, which may prompt them to abuse alcohol and drugs. So, the vicious cycle of addiction continues.
Our children deserve to grow up in a sober home with parents who are supportive and loving. You have the power to change your life today. Seek help if you are lost in addiction. Your children are depending on you to protect them. They don’t want to grow up with strangers. Please don’t disappoint them.