By Dawn Cogan and Ana

A neighbor, Curt, overheard gossip at the bakery about Cindy’s disruptive behavior in middle school. He knew Cindy’s mom at that age and thinks about the trouble she got into. “If I had reached out back then, could these two lives look differently today? How can I help Cindy now and try to change the cycle?”

We can all relate to this, wondering if anything we do would make a difference. How can we step in?

Curt knows that Cindy walks into a dark, empty house each day after school. He knows deep down she’s a good kid, but the lack of attention and supervision at home seems to be limiting her options.

He pictures her opening the fridge to find cold mac ‘n’ cheese and a case of beer. As she tosses the noodles in the microwave, she wonders, “Who will mom bring home tonight?” He knows the thought must make her shiver.

It’s easy to quickly say, ‘it’s not our problem.’ Or is it? What does it look like if you and I choose to do nothing?

Based on the behaviors Cindy has seen from her mom and the lack of positive attention, she will continue to act out in various ways throughout high school. She has an increasing chance of adopting her mother’s self-destructive ways. Eventually, Cindy may struggle with relationships, teen pregnancy, and her own abuse of substances.

These diagrams from the ACE Study (www.acestudy.org) explain the link between substance abuse and child abuse, showing how this cycle of harm gets created.

Outside influences are sometimes necessary to break the cycle of abuse. Whether you are the neighbor, mailman, peer, or relative, we all have the power to intervene.

Anyone who comes into contact with a family has a responsibility for that child’s welfare. It’s not about if we should get involved but how can we? This snowball will continue to roll down-hill and get bigger and worse unless someone has the courage to step in its way and alter its path.

Perhaps you are not ready to go out and directly step in, you can still help in other ways. In the next post, we have suggestions and opportunities for you to help situations like Cindy’s at whatever level makes you comfortable.

When you and I choose to get involved, options open up for Cindy and her mother that were otherwise unattainable. She now has a better chance for a more positive future.

Why? Because someone like you stepped in and cared.

Part 3 | How Can We Step In?

Fore more detail on the ACE Study, read Katie Becker’s article.

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