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National Editorials & Columns

We create the learning environment for our children

Most of us would rather avoid a heavy subject — abuse. If we are abusers, we don’t want to face up to ourselves. If we are not abusers, we don’t want to try to understand how someone could abuse, or we don’t want to believe it happens. Yet, both abusers and those who abuse not only need our understanding but our actions.

Teachers do their best to teach all children, both those abused and those not abused. When your safety is involved, it is hard to learn information or set goals. Those first five years of life affect our learning more than any other time period. The situations we face, the stresses we deal with and the modeling we observe determines many conscious and unconscious decisions.

There are many good books delving into the results of abuse, both non-fiction and fiction. Sometimes a story helps a reader realize that he or she isn’t alone. Abuse affects the weak directly, whether they are children, the elderly or those with handicapping conditions.

A middle school book recommended to me is “Swear to Howdy” by Wendelin Van Draanen. Joey and Rusty are friends, and on the surface, the book seems to be a collection of humorous stories about two boys growing up in the South. However, as the story develops, it takes a serious turn to deal with issues like child abuse, betrayal and the toll of keeping secrets.

Your librarian can help with selecting appropriate books for children, so they not only can identify if they are being abused but also help others in tough situations. If you were blessed with love and care, you cannot enter the world of those who have been abused, but you can grow in understanding.

Another source for material is to search the Internet using “Abuse Reading List” for various suggestions. Always read the book yourself before recommending it to a child.

It only takes reading the news to know how many violent crimes are initiated by the young. I looked through my resource materials, which affirmed a number of my personal theories. I won’t pretend that I’ve conducted a research or survey with random samples, etc. These comments are purely personal observations based on things I’ve read, seen and researched from a personal level. Some observations may seem simplistic, but if you or someone you know hasn’t thought about them, they are definitely not simplistic.

If a child is hungry, cold or uncomfortable, he or she won’t learn to read. If a child fears excessively or distrusts her caretakers, she won’t be able to learn well. Learning takes place best for any of us when we are physically comfortable, feel safe and confident.  Creating this type of atmosphere is both a parent’s joy and responsibility. 

We create the learning environment for our children, not the school or the teachers.  The educational system simply expands on what we have begun. As parents, we create this atmosphere either accidently or purposely. It is our choice. We create it whether we had the best childhood environment possible or not. We create our children’s learning atmosphere exactly like our own was, or we choose to change it. Even if as a child we didn’t have enough to eat, we weren’t comforted or our needs weren’t provided, we have the choice to continue as our parents did or to change the course of parenting as we know it. We create a learning atmosphere for our children when our days go well or when they don’t go well at work, at home or in society. As mature, loving, and caring parents, we don’t take out our frustrations on a child. No one claims it is easy.

That ugly word “abuse” with its many victims is never begun, or it is stopped, by the caring parent. There are no sideline spectators to abuse. If you, a loved one or friend is abusing someone, you choose to be an abuser. If you know about the abuse or suspect it, you are supportive of the abuse. Choose to get help for yourself or another. Simply because we have pain or have experienced pain gives us no valid reason to inflict pain on others.

Whether we realize we are an abuser, or not, we are still harming others. Whether we choose to ignore the warning signs in ourselves or others, people are still being abused. Abuse should never be a reaction to personal experiences. We need to get help and grow beyond those experiences if we want to stop the chain of abuse.  We need to help those who are unable to do so and not just label them “bully,” “criminal,” “abuser.” Labels don’t decrease the number of victims.

Until next week…  Christine Pauley

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