Danielle Miller | Impact of violence on the lives of children
Violence has been a plague in the lives of many children across the world. The World Health Organization describes violence as “the intentional use of physical force or power, threatened or actual, against oneself, another person, or against a group or community that either results in or has a high likelihood of resulting in injury, death, psychological harm, mal-development, or deprivation.” Violence against children not only hinders a child’s physical development, but also the socio-emotional and cognitive domains of the child’s development. It is easy to point fingers and play the blame game.
However, a collaborative effort is imperative to reduce violence against children. Children are to be protected from all forms of abuse, neglect, exploitation, and child labour. The Ministry of National Security and Justice, Ministry of Tourism, Ministry of Education Youth and Information, parents, and all citizens of Jamaica need to play their part in ending violence against children.
To solve the problem of violence against children, we must first identify from where the issue stems. The overall history of childhood where children were seen as property is a major cause that is rarely highlighted. Lloyd deMause (1974), who worked in the field of psychohistory describes the history of childhood as follows: “The history of childhood is a nightmare from which we have only recently begun to awaken. The further back in history one goes, the lower the level of child care and the more likely children are to be killed, abandoned, beaten, terrorized and sexually abused.”
HISTORY OF CHILDHOOD
The history of childhood started from infantile mode, to abandonment mode, then ambivalent mode, to intrusive mode then on to socialisation mode, and finally, the helping mode. The helping mode is where we ought to be so that our children can strive to overcome adversities with resilience. Culture is another cause of violence in children. For example, in the Jamaican culture, we were taught that children must be seen and not heard. If they were heard, parents or guardians would abuse them physically and verbally with the audacity to inquire, “Mi gi yuh sumpn fi bawl fah?”
A child’s holistic development is affected by various forms of violence. These forms may include sexual and/or emotional violence, intimate-partner violence, bullying, and maltreatment. These can lead to lifelong physical and mental illnesses and may also result in death. In an effort to end violence against children, parents, schools, and the community all have a role to play.
Parents/guardians’ roles include:
• Creating a safe space for children to speak and express themselves freely about any issues affecting them. This will bolster their self-esteem and foster a relationship with effective communication.
• Practising anger-management techniques such as talking calmly, listening to, and thinking about the consequences of your actions towards your child.
• Being a positive influence in your child’s life because after all, children live what they learn.
• Adopting a more authoritarian parenting style. You may enforce rules and explain the reasons for them, along with the consequences. The child’s feelings must be considered. Positive discipline can be used to reinforce good behaviour.
• Seeking professional help if needed. Some support services for families are, The National Parenting Support Commission, Child Protection and Family Services, Office of the Children Registry, the Early Childhood Commission and the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information. All these agencies provide services that can be beneficial to parents, practitioners, and children.
The school’s roles in eliminating violence against children are:
• Identifying and addressing at-risk children from early.
• Promoting and acknowledging acts of kindness.
• Promoting inclusion and opportunities for children to embrace other children irrespective of their race, gender, and disabilities.
• Encouraging parental involvement.
• Giving individualised attention to each child.
The community’s roles in eliminating violence against children are:
• Reporting suspicious activities.
• Encouraging fair, child-friendly activities that will not harm children, but foster their development.
• Supporting and invesing in child’s talents and abilities. It takes a village to raise a child.
The Government’s roles in eliminating violence against children are:
• Strengthening child-protection laws to protect children, for example, laws against the trafficking of children.
• Increasing the cadre of social workers and support staff to conduct home visits and plan interventions for at-risk children and indifferent parents.
Therefore, all can and should play a role in eliminating violence against children. Our children are depending on us to keep them safe.
- Danielle Miller is a first-year child and adolescent development student at the University of Technology, Jamaica. Send feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.