Supporting parents and caregivers as we slow the spread of coronavirus

April 1, 2020

Open any social media app and you’ll see a reminder that parenting these days is tough. With school closures and stay-at-home orders in effect, parents and caregivers have more stress and instability. However, every parent experiences stress and needs help from time to time. The pandemic is helping us see what has always been true.

“As a community, we should be checking in with each other, especially parents and caregivers who have added responsibility and added stress during this pandemic,” Lucinda Connelly, child protection manager for the CDHS Division of Child Welfare, says.

In-person interactions are few and far between now, but most people continue to communicate on the phone, over the fence or in an online hangout. In these situations, Lucinda says, think about how you can proactively reach out to adults with kids at home. “Don’t wait for someone to come to you and ask for help. Reach out and just listen. It’s amazing the impact that these small acts of kindness can have.”

When you pick up the phone or connect online with a parent or caregiver, Lucinda suggests using open-ended questions because asking "How are you?" may not be enough. Instead, start the conversation with:

  • Tell be about ...
  • What have you done today to take care of yourself?"  
  • What is one thing I can do for you today?  
  • Recognize the difficulty and anxiety and ask "how are you dealing with this?"
  • How have you successfully navigated a difficult time in the past? Tell me about that...Is there anything you can lean into from that time? 

Parents with a social network of emotionally supportive friends, family and neighbors often find that it is easier to care for their children and themselves. Research has shown that parents who are isolated, with few social connections, are also at higher risk for child abuse and/or neglect.

“If you’re concerned about possible child abuse and neglect, our advice to everyone has not changed. Call 844-CO-4-Kids to share your concerns or call 911 if there is an immediate threat,” Lucinda says. “It may be nothing, but you’ve done your part.”

If you’re concerned about the safety of a child,  ask yourself these types of questions:

  1. Are you noticing that adult caregivers are under significantly increased stress?
  2. Is there physical violence?
  3. Does it appear that a family is struggling, perhaps with food insecurity?
  4. Does it look like the house is unsafe?
  5. Is a young child spending long periods of time home alone? Is a young child responsible for caring for siblings?
  6. Is there crying – especially endless crying – in the background?
  7. If you ask the parent or caregiver about any of this, how do they respond?  
  8. Are your kids sharing something about their friends that concerns you?

“The stressors that come along with our response to the pandemic - financial instability or social isolation -  are not child abuse and neglect in and of themselves, but you should not ignore your concerns,” Lucinda says. “It’s even more important now that you reach out to a family that may be struggling and ask how you can help.” And, if you are concerned about the safety of a child, call the hotline 844-CO-4 KIDS.

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Colorado Child Abuse and Neglect Hotline
Available 24 hours a day, every day. Don't hesitate to call and get help. 
Anyone witnessing a child in a life-threatening situation should call 911 immediately.