Child abuse has become a concern as families stay home during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Child Welfare Services has reported a decrease in reports, but that reflects the fact that schools and child-care centers, which make many of the reports, are closed, Alana Walczak, CEO of Child Abuse Listening Mediation, told the News-Press.
“From CALM’s perspective, we’ve seen a spike in calls requesting services,” said the leader of the Santa Barbara County nonprofit.
Ms. Walczak said CALM received 10 new inquiries last week regarding families in Santa Barbara.
She added that during the week of March 15, CALM added 16 new families in Lompoc and Santa Maria to its caseload.
Ms. Walczak said families are facing more stress factors at home because of COVID-19. She has advice on how to minimize the tension for parents and their children.
“I think physical exercise is important: just getting your body moving,” she said, suggesting families walk outside while maintaining social distancing.
“Going outside and seeing natural beauty, seeing clouds, seeing the mountains — it’s calming and it’s soothing,” she said.
Ms. Walczak also suggested families set aside their phones, tablets, computers and TV for screen-free quality time together. She also recommended other healthy tips such as choosing nutritious snacks and taking breaks from TV news and social media reporting on COVID-19.
It’s also important to maintain the usual routine for children and continue their bedtime ritual so they get enough sleep, Ms. Walczak said.
She added that parents can relieve their own stress through meditation, prayer, deep breaths, stretching or engaging in activities they enjoy. She noted the need to pace yourself between stressful activities and do something fun after a hard task.
And Ms. Walczak noted families can ease the feeling of isolation at home by connecting with others through phone calls and Skype, FaceTime or Zoom. “I know some families are doing virtual play dates and dance parties over Zoom.”
Adults don’t know how long the pandemic will last, but children need to be assured they’re safe and secure in the moment and their needs are being met, Ms. Walczak said. She noted the need to present a sense of hope and positivity in the home.
Ms. Walczak also said this is a period of adjustment for families. “I think parents need to give themselves permission that these circumstances are nothing like they’ve experienced before. If they can’t do it all, that’s OK.
“Most importantly, if they can focus on building that connected relationship with their children during the stressful time, that will be what the children will remember, and that is what they will carry forward from this experience,” Ms. Walczak said. “They got more time with Mommy and Daddy, and that was quality time: going for walks, playing games.”
For referrals or requests for services, contact Child Abuse Listening Mediation at 805-965-2376.
To contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline, call 1-800-799-7233. For tips on staying safe during the COVID-19 pandemic, go to www.thehotline.org/2020/03/13/staying-safe-during-covid-19.
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration has issued strategies of self-care and connection with others. Go to www.samhsa.gov.