LONDON — People from all walks of life, of varied career choices, parents and concerned citizens filled the Redemption Life Center Thursday to educate themselves on child abuse prevention.
Participants learned about trauma informed care, play therapy, parenting and attitudes toward corporal punishment during the Community Collaboration for Children Regional Network Child Abuse Prevention Conference. The conference was free to participants and was held from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. in London.
Generational and cultural differences on how people discipline their families as well as the use of play therapy techniques were discussed by David Weisenhorn and Erica Myers.
Myers is a Registered Play Therapist, who like all play therapists, believes that play is the natural language of all children.
“Unfortunately we can’t sit down with kids and say tell me about your thoughts and feelings and the kids narrate for us and articulate what they’re thinking and feeling, so we use play as the medium between there for kids to explain to us in their language what’s going on with them.”
Myers of Ashland said she feels like a huge part of her responsibility is to educate the Commonwealth about what play therapy is as there aren’t that many play therapists in the state.
“Play has been found to be highly effective in treating trauma and other symptomology that comes with trauma so it’s really important for clinicians to learn about integrating play into their current practices,” added Myers
Hillary Baker also talked about trauma informed care and the different responses and how parents handle that.
“Classes like this are so important for our community to help grow and develop and work through because there is a lot of trauma here,” said Baker. “These programs are wonderful because it’s reaching out and bringing these parents in and educating them and other community members."
Weisenhorn, a Family Scientist at the University of Kentucky, spoke largely to a group of parents, both men and women about understanding and disciplining their children. He also dealt with the topic of how to understand and treat the cognitive issues of children born addicted to drugs.
Weisenhorn also spoke to parents about spanking their children. He advises against it, noting long term side effects, adding that while it may get the immediate desired results, it doesn’t work to the extent that one believes.
Weisenhorn is an advocate for disciplining via work ethic.
“We don’t want to take things away from them that are most beneficial to them. Fortnite is not beneficial to them in anyway,” he said when talking to one parent in particular who had asked a question. “We don’t take physical activity away from kids, we want to give them physical activity.”
Weisenhorn said the best way to discipline children is to give them chores.
“Make them work,” he said. “Working them teaches them a skill, it exhausts them and it gets work done.”
Weisenhorn also advised parents to give themselves graces and to keep household rules short, simple and meaningful.
The conference brought parents, community members, health care workers and family resource and youth service coordinators under one roof with a common goal Thursday.
Understanding that a large population in the Tri-County has been in the court system and face drug charges hindering their chance at certain public assistance opportunities, there was a free legal aid workshop available on Thursday as well.
Paula Billingsley spoke to a large group of professionals who work with children and families on a daily basis.
Regional Network Coordinator Cumberland Valley for Community Collaboration for Children Patra Gregory and Assistant Program Director for TriCo Mentoring Valerie Lebanion helped organize the event each year with the hope of preventing child abuse in Kentucky.