By Cassie Stauch
Preventing child maltreatment takes many forms, some more obvious than others. Pro-social activities fall in the category of protective factors that may not be so apparent. But pro-social activities, actions that help others, such as volunteering or lending a hand to a neighbor, strengthen families. And child abuse is less likely in strong families. Besides helping others, pro-social activities benefit the helper, too, by increasing moods, social connectedness and decreasing stress levels. All of these positives, indirectly, help prevent child abuse. Pro-social activities open doors and create different understandings of what is possible. And it doesn’t hurt to get out of the house and spend time with other caring individuals.
This summer, consider getting involved in pro-social activities as a family. Learn about growing vegetables while volunteering at the community gardens. Go to the Grainery in Salida or other local food pantries and meet the amazing people there. Reach out to Ark Valley Helping Hands and help our senior citizens. Learn new building skills at a Habitat for Humanity site. Cook a crockpot meal to donate to local shelters. Go for a walk, and bring gloves and bags to pick up trash. Pro-social opportunities are limitless. Become inspired to help out because when we do, it’s one more way to feel connected with each other. And when this happens, the risk of child maltreatment goes down.
As a teacher, I have learned to model the behavior I want in my students. It is the same for parents, older siblings and family friends. Our children are always watching and learning from what we say and do. If we model the behavior of helping others, being kind and showing support for those in need, we help foster empathetic and caring young people. If your family spent two hours a month dedicated to helping others, it would strengthen family bonds, community ties, and personal gains in new skills and accomplishments. Again, it may not be obvious on the surface, but pro-social activities then reduce the risk of child abuse.
As one of the Youth Coordinators at Family & Youth Initiatives, I offer at least one pro-social event each month for youth. It is always a rewarding experience. The benefits are far-reaching in ways some people never imagined.
Cassie Stauch, MSW, is an Intervention Coordinator at Family & Youth Initiatives in Chaffee County. She can be reached at email@example.com.