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Katy Experts Warn Child Abuse Can Increase Due to Isolation


March 29, 2020

By Natalie Cook Clark

Medical experts continue to warn families about the effects of the ongoing quarantine and their concerns about the potential rise of child abuse cases. Local medical professionals offer important advice to help families manage stress and anxiety in this new “normal” and uncertain times.

Stay-at-Home Orders Bring Uncharted Times with Stress

Last week, Katy residents joined millions of Americans when the “Stay at Home” order was implemented for the area. As a result, many families are trying to cope with the stress of working from home, job uncertainty, and educating children in an unfamiliar virtual-learning territory.

There is no doubt that this a time of extreme stress and uncertainty, with no timeline on how and when “normal” life will resume.

“The virus sets the timeline,” explained Dr. Anthony Fauci last week, “we don’t.”

Child Abuse Concerns

As schools remain closed, authorities worry about the safety of children who normally find safety in schools, surrounded by teachers who are trained to look for the signs of abuse. And child abuse isn’t the only concern. There is also concern for an increase in domestic abuse and neglect. Tempers are easier to flare up as society navigates this new normal.

“I think that the reality is that stress levels are high right now,” says Persha. “That, combined with isolation and decrease of support increase risks of abuse is a real concern.”

According to Children’s Advocacy Center of Texas, 1 in 10 children will be abused before their 18th birthday and on average 175 children are victims of child abuse in Texas each day. Although statistics have not been released showing potential increases in abuse during the current quarantine, the nature of the highly stressful situation and close quarters have experts worried for potential victims.

Obligated as a Community to Report Concerns

“As a community we remain obligated just as before coronavirus to call in a report if we hear or see any concerns, for example hearing the child next door screaming,” explains Persha. “Also as neighbors and family we can also still reach out and connect virtually with those in our community who we feel are struggling. This is a time we must all come together.”

Wearing Many Hats

“Most of us are accustomed to wearing many hats from a mom hat to a work hat and so on,” says Brittani Persha, the owner of a local counseling practice that specializes in child and family therapy. “Now we have to wear our hats simultaneously and that obviously can lead to new stress.”

Emotions Amplified

“Traditionally, in times of stress emotions are amplified,” says Dr. Karen Jaggers of Stokan, Jaggers and Associates. “We see this in times of natural disasters, wars and now coronavirus. In the case of COVID-19, I am particularly concerned as it has created a scenario in which families are in close quarters for an extended period of time together.”

Physical Distancing and Social Connecting

Medical experts suggest that people have a choice on how they react to stress.

“I do not like the term social distancing,” says Persha. “I think we need to focus on physical distancing and social connecting,” says Persha.

“I’ve noticed that the most detrimental aspect of this time is the lack of connecting,” says Persha. “We need to feel connected and there are many ways we can be.”

Ways to Connect

· Facetime/Zoom family and friends

· Host a Zoom dance party

· Leave notes on the driveway with chalk

· Scavenger Hunt- incorporate the neighborhood

· Share fun community challenges, share via videos, notes

· Make a care package for grandparents and elderly neighbors

· Make cards for teachers, doctors, nurses

This is a time to be creative and think outside the box to find ways to cope that include growing as a family and community.

“You are just as loved as you were before,” says Persha. “We just have to be creative.”

Stay on Schedule

Maintaining a routine, especially with meals and sleep, during quarantine is extremely important.

“Dinnertime and bedtime remaining as close to the same time every day will help both children and adults to better regulate their circadian rhythms which determine sleep schedules,” says Dr. Jaggers.

While children aren’t physically learning in a classroom right now, experts suggest parents need to encourage them to maintain a traditional weekday schedule.

“Children are used to a great deal of structure in their school days,” says Jaggers. “Please work hard to establish and maintain a schedule for your children at least during the school week. It helps children to have a sense of control over their own lives, particularly in times of stress."

Establish Boundaries

It is important to establish boundaries, even when families are under the same roof for an extended amount of time.

“Create separate place for school/work vs. play,” explains Persha. “You can make a sign that says, ‘Mommy Time,’ and the same for children. Take breaks and use your sign to escape into your room even if it’s just for five minutes. This mental break can go a long way.”

“These are uncertain times in our world. We have never experienced something like this in our lifetimes,” says Dr. Jaggers. “Acknowledge this to your children. Keep them informed but do not allow them to constantly be watching the news channels or research it on the internet.”

Rock vs. Play-Doh

“I’ve been telling my clients about the ‘rock and Play-Doh’ analogy,” explains Persha. “The rock is hard and we can’t change it. It represents what we cannot control. The Play-Doh we can change and mold it. It represents the things we can control.”

Be Empowered

“It is important that we empower people with what we can control,” says Persha. “If we are missing someone, like a friend or grandparent then we can do something for them.”

During this time of crisis, families can use this time to connect and come together.

“Families in today’s world are so busy running from activity to activity,” says Dr. Jaggers. “I have had many families tell me this week how enjoyable it was for them to all sit down together for dinner, as they rarely are able to do so with their usual busy schedules.”

A World United

“Our country and world is united in a way that it has not ever been before,” says Dr. Jaggers. “We are fighting a common enemy. This enemy knows not race, creed or economic boundary. Perhaps we can all realize that we have more that brings us together than what divides us.”


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