A Lawrence consultant and a Kansas State University professor have taken an innovative approach to helping families combat child abuse.
More than 60,000 copies of a four-part educational brochure series, "Realistic Expectations for Kansas Parents," have been distributed to parents and parent educators throughout the state, according to the consultant, Malcolm Smith.
Smith, who also wrote the brochure's content, said the Realistic Expectations project approached parents in an unusual way.
"There have been other brochures done, but not like this," he said. "The idea behind this project was to make something that was really user-friendly. I think we've filled a gap in the educational literature."
Demand for the brochures has been hard to keep up with, Smith said, noting the Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services, the agency which contracted with Smith to write the series, was considering a second printing.
"THE RESPONSE has been incredible," Smith said. "We're averaging 10 to 15 requests a day from county extension services, parent educators, public health nurses there are many requests coming in from just a whole range of professionals who deal with parents."
Because of factors such as high divorce rates, job stress, teen pregnancy and changing lifestyles, parents today are no longer well educated about what to expect from their children during certain stages of their lives, Smith said. The Realistic Expectations series is a straightforward, how-to guide that tells parents what they can expect from their children during certain life periods.
The series outlines the basic social, physical and emotional needs of children in four age groups: "Oh Baby" addresses the needs of children up to age 2; "Toddling, Tantrums and Tall Tales" talks about children from ages 2 to 5; "Off They Go" covers the 6 to 12 age group; and "Teenagers This is Normal?" addresses adolescents ages 13 to 18.
"ONE OF THE indicators of child abuse that we have known about for a long time is that there has been a breakdown in the parent-educating process," he said. "One example of this is that many parents get really frustrated about the issue of potty training. They don't know what to expect or when.
"Our `what to expect at what time' kind of approach is a way to help parents deal with that frustration."
Tony Jurich, professor of human development and family studies at Kansas State University, said many children were abused because parents were aggravated by behavior they did not understand. Jurich worked with Smith to edit the Realistic Expectations brochures.
"People who abuse their children usually have absolutely no knowledge of what to expect developmentally from their kids," he said. "Babies don't come with instructions. You can't lift the baby's arm and read something there on the side, and consequently we often don't know what we're doing as parents. The consequence of not knowing what you're doing is that you can wind up with a very tragic situation."
ONE OF THE reasons the series is so popular is that it provides information parents want and need, Jurich said, and the information is presented in a way that is easy to understand.
"We're very direct," he said. "There's a lot of stuff out there that if you're smart and can remember what you read and digest it all, you can get some help. But this series is no fluff and guff.
"It outlines exactly what you need to know and when you need to worry about certain things."
Jurich said he and Smith also worked hard to make the brochures entertaining and readable. He said this was important as many pamphlets designed to help parents went unused because they were too scientific or too boring.
"We got together and said `Let's get off our high horse and get the lab coat off and get down on the floor and play with the kids,' " he said. "We tried to put things in there that a parent of a child that age would be able to smile at."
THE BROCHURES, which are being funded through SRS by a grant from the U.S. department of human services, are free and available at SRS offices, county health departments, schools, day-care centers, private agencies, physicians' offices and mental health centers throughout the state.
In addition, Smith said parents and educators in Lawrence could get copies of the brochures by writing to him at P.O. Box 1501, Lawrence, 66044.