April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month, and for those of us working with children and families every day, this reminds us that the concept of child abuse is much broader than we may think. It encompasses a wide range of actions (or absence of actions) that may result in impairment of a child’s physical, mental or emotional health.

It’s not just abuse we should all be concerned about — it’s also learning the best actions to take in raising a child.

Research has demonstrated that by the age of 3, 80 percent of a child’s brain is developed. That increases to 90 percent by the age of 5. By age 6, we expect children to have the necessary cognitive, language, motor, social and emotional skills necessary to enter kindergarten ready to learn. It’s one of the most critical rites of passage anyone ever faces. A child’s prospects for a successful educational experience and ultimately reaching adulthood self-sufficient depend on this one moment in time. Poverty will magnify the challenges parents face in raising their children, but young children’s developmental opportunities and concerns confront families regardless of family income and education.

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