Protecting Your Child from Abuse

When we see the word ‘abuse’, most of us will think of horrible pictures of children or adults who have been beaten by some cruel, hateful, deranged person. The scenes are all too familiar. Abuse and neglect happen every day. Any abuse is too much.

Protecting children from abuse goes beyond just keeping them away from someone who may harm them physically, sexually, or emotionally. There is a different kind of abuse that happens in loving homes all across America and around the world. This abuse is disregarded, but serious.

Obviously, this is a matter of opinion, and many will disagree. The definition of abuse I refer to happens when we allow our children to watch programs or movies filled with violence, horror, sexuality, and other scenes not intended for young eyes and ears. When a child sees and hears things that are beyond their natural maturity, they are bombarded with images and sounds for which they lack the mental and emotional structure to understand.

Through the years, I have heard many young students talk about movies they have seen, describing scenes of terrible violence and gore. Others speak of horror movies that make the long-gone Friday night “Creature Features” look like an episode of Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood. These films are doing exactly what they are designed to do, scare viewers almost out of their minds. Millions love them.

We can tell our kids it’s not real, and they may understand the difference between real life and a movie. However, the things they see do not go through a filter in their mind that places make-believe items in one pile and things that are real in another. The fear they feel when they watch horror movies is real. The impact on the brain and emotions from exposure to those kinds of scenes is real, and lasting. The images will remain a part of their memory. Why would we choose to expose our children’s minds, calling it entertainment, to things we would give our own lives to protect them from in real life?

Okay, enough about television and movies. How can you keep your child safe from abuse? Every parent must be aware and awake. With whom is your child spending time? Does your child have opportunities to be alone with an adult you do not know very well? Do you know all of the people your child is communicating with on the internet? Do you know the passwords to all of your child’s accounts on their iphone, ipad, computer, and smart TV? Do you know who they are friends with on Facebook, SnapChat, TikTok, Twitter, Instagram, and any other new apps that come out almost every day? Do you allow your child to have internet access in their bedroom?

During the years I had the privilege of being a middle school counselor, I often witnessed heart-broken and teary students betrayed by someone, maybe a former BFF, posting unflattering photos, or spreading rumors and lies about them. My response was always the same. “Close your accounts and don’t go back on social media.” They wouldn’t do it. The price of being excluded from the social media noise was greater than the heartbreak they felt. I often said, “If I had my way, no student sixteen or younger would have a cell phone or have access to social media.” I know it’s unrealistic, I understand this is the era we’re living in. But parents are not required, no matter how their own children may complain, to allow them the capacity to be exposed to things they may never be able to overcome. Social media access is not required for healthy emotional, psychological, and social development!

We’re living in a different world than we were just ten years ago. No parent can be too careful, too suspicious. Do you know the leaders of the community or church groups your child attends? Do you ask questions? Do the groups do background checks on all of their volunteers? Does this sound paranoid? Not today, not for a minute!

Protecting children is not just the parents’ responsibility, but it is the parents’ job to be sure those adults who are around their children will actually do everything they can to protect them.

If you are beginning to wonder if abuse is taking place. Talk to someone! Get help immediately! Don’t assume anything! Don’t allow your own trusting, non-suspicious, perhaps non-believing nature to blind you. Don’t doubt yourself! The cost is too high if your trust in others is misplaced! Over-reacting or being mistaken is far better than discovering too late you were right.

A Weird Thing Happened on the Way to Publishing a Novel

My middle grade novel, Smivey Stepward, is a coming-of-age, first love, mystery, ghost story with an unexpected twist at the end I really love.

The start and stop process I used while seeking a literary agent to represent my work to publishers obviously didn’t work. Obvious, because start and stop never works with anything. The only way things happen is through perseverance. Someone said, “If one tooteth not his own horn, the same doth not get tooted.” Wise.

Early on, a question from agents I kept seeing was, “What is your social media presence?” I didn’t have a social media presence.

I immediately began working on my new project. Trying, very uncomfortably, to create a social media presence that went beyond clicking on Facebook once in a while, wondering what Twitter was, and marveling at my kids’ Instagram pictures. The problem is I spent two years working on all this and completely stopped pursuing representation.

Now you know why I haven’t written any blog posts for over a month.

Writing a synopsis of a fifty-seven thousand word novel is excruciating. It involves summarizing every chapter in a paragraph, all twenty-two of them. Then condensing the paragraphs, weeding, editing, shortening, clipping, editing some more, crossing off, rethinking, changing my mind, and finally, looking online for advice on how to write a good synopsis and discovering mine was crap. Rewrite.

Query letters are almost as painful as synopses but not quite. A query letter has to have a killer hook, just enough information, and not sound like the back flap blurb all books have.

When everything is ready, it’s time to research which agents who rep middle grade novels are accepting submissions. That doesn’t mean creating a list and sending out a huge stack of the same things to everyone. Ohhh, no. Some agents want a query letter, synopsis, and ten pages. Some want three chapters, some two. Some want just a query letter and one chapter. All use some form of email, no one is using snail-mail anymore. They make it very clear paper submissions will quickly find their place in the trash.

Some agents use a platform called, “Query Manager” which is an online submission form and those are not all the same, either. Some ask for a biography, a pitch, a target audience, and one required the name of an actor who would play the main character if the novel became a movie.

Then the wait, and the inevitable “thank-you but no thank-you” replies.

It definitely is worth the work. Having a finished novel I’m very proud of and being able to present it to the publishing world is an exciting experience.

So there you have it. I haven’t disappeared. I didn’t stop writing. In fact, I’m writing more. Just not blog posts right now. I’m writing to agents, many of them, asking them to represent me in my quest for a publisher who will release Smivey Stepward to a waiting world.