21 Apr OP-ED: How to be a supportive bystander for kids
This was originally posted as an op-ed by The Courier Journal on April 21, 2022.
By Jane Herms, Ken Reiss and Nancy Weaver
We’ve all been there. You’re out shopping or at a restaurant with friends or family and you notice a parent and a child really struggling. Maybe the child is having a meltdown, or the parent is yelling. Maybe there’s pushing or shoving involved. Everyone around them stares and no one knows what to do.
Maybe you’ve been this parent. Or this child.
There are many reasons that parents and their children struggle in public. It could be that they are feeling the stress of everyday life, or it could be that the struggle in public is the tip of the iceberg of abuse that happens at home. The fact of the matter is that we’ll never know the circumstances that brought this parent and child to this place, and we won’t know how things will be for them after we go our separate ways.
But in this moment, there are a lot of ways we can offer support.
We don’t need to figure out why the family is struggling or understand the many reasons they could be having a hard time. Raising kids is hard. Being in a stressful situation is hard. As bystanders, we don’t have to fix anything or come to anyone’s rescue – just come alongside our neighbors with calmness, support and compassion.
Through the commitment and investment of Kosair Charities, the Face It Movement promotes best practices in child abuse prevention and intervention, builds awareness and engages the community in how to help families thrive, and advocates for policies to improve the child welfare system.
Because of this support, community partners from across the commonwealth – including Family Nurturing Center in Northern Kentucky – have participated in Support Over Silence for KIDS, a bystander training program that prepares community members and professionals to confidently defuse challenging moments between caregivers and their children in public.
The training’s proven, action-oriented programming is designed to teach bystanders how to quickly notice an event, decide what to do and then provide support in a way that works best for them. It offers an empathy-driven, judgment-free approach that considers how culture, trauma and other factors influence parenting and how bystanders can engage in a positive way.
Wondering what to say and do when you see a caregiver and child struggling in public? Remember the acronym ‘KIDS’ for a few quick tips:
K: share Kind words of encouragement
I: Intervene directly with a specific offer of support
D: use Distraction to help de-escalate the situation or draw attention away from the struggle
S: Seek out others to provide support if you’re not in a position to engage or if the situation is unsafe
Whether you are a parent, grandparent, concerned neighbor, or someone in a helping profession, the Face It Movement wants to empower YOU to be a face that ends child abuse in the commonwealth. We all have a role to play in keeping children safe – whether that’s stepping in to support a stressed parent before harm occurs, speaking up when faced with a challenging situation, or making a report to Child Protect Services at 1-877-KYSAFE1 if you believe a child has been abused.
April is Child Abuse Prevention Month, an important time to think about how you can support caregivers and kids in a non-judgmental way when tensions are high. Remember, even the smallest gesture can make a big impact for a stressed family.
Jane Herms is President & CEO of Family Nurturing Center; Ken Reiss is the Chair of the Board at Kosair Charities; and Dr. Nancy Weaver is the Founder of Support Over Silence for KIDS. Learn more about the Face It Movement at faceitmovement.org.