Programs for Preschoolers

While many communities have programs designed to aid and support battered women and to treat the bat-terers, the development of children's programs lags far behind. In many communities there are simply no services available for children of abused women. When services do exist, they often take the form of drop-in groups in shelters. Programs designed for younger children most often have the goals of providing support and building self-esteem. For reasons stated above, younger children are less cognitively mature, and hence, less able to consider and to process the distressing events in their family. Yet they are no less affected by these events. We know from the few research studies on preschool-age children of battered women that they are more likely to have difficulty modulating negative emotions and solving problems in social situations than children who have not been exposed to such abuse. Therefore, programs that emphasize the role-modeling of appropriate social interaction may be very helpful to these children.

It is generally believed that the best way to help young children is to help their mothers. Thus, programs that focus on honing and developing better parenting skills, in addition to keeping the mother safe, indirectly serve to help the young child. Programs that involve both the mother and the child may be the most successful of all, as they focus on interaction and provide an opportunity to enhance and to support parenting efforts. However, many battered women need to have their own support before they can attend to the needs of their youngest children. In this case, child care and groups for preschool children are necessary. Also, many of the youngest children of battered women are often cared for by their older siblings. Efforts to include relief and skill building for these older children may be additional and appropriate ways to provide for the preschool-age child's needs.

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