On the eve of the Secondary Entrance Assessment (SEA) examination, the Children's Authority of T&T pleaded with parents to desist from inflicting emotional abuse on pupils who are facing intense pressure at this time, as this could adversely affect them in their adult years.
The authority tried to sensitise and educate the public about emotional abuse during a press conference on Monday at its Port-of-Spain office which was attended by its chairman Hanif Benjamin, CEO Safiya Noel and manager registry and investigation Rhonda Gregoire-Roopchan.
Though people report to the authority physical and sexual abuse as well as neglect, Noel said for this month, they will focus on emotional abuse which is hard to detect and under-reported.
The role of the authority is to provide care and protection of children.
Noel said parents have a tendency to call their children insulting and derogatory names is a form of emotional abuse.
She appealed to parents not to name shame, degrade or verbally abuse their children who are due to sit the SEA exam on Thursday.
"If they do not pass for their first choice, there is a tomorrow. It does not mean you have a stupid child. This time could be difficult for parents and children and often parents find themselves abusing their children in trying to cause them to be successful. Do not put out your frustration on your children."
Such parents are urged to utilise self-control, seek anger management and psychological help, Noel said, as she reminded them of their primary responsibility which is to educate and protect children from harm.
"If you do not know how to manage yourself and regulate your behaviour there will be no way you can teach that to your children."
Data has shown that biological parents are the biggest alleged perpetrators of abuse.
"Sometimes people are so embarrassed they mask a lot of issues that are taking place in the family and really they ought to be getting help. Parents stop the masking. The price is too great for a pristine image."
Though emotional abuse was not heavily reported, Noel called on citizens who know of cases to report anonymously to the authority.
"It does not even show any major signs of increase. But what we do see when we start to investigate reports that there is evidence that the child has been a victim of psychological or emotional abuse for a very long time," Noel said.
Emotional abuse involves dismissing a child's emotional reaction, shaming, humiliating, rejecting, belittling, blaming, berating, insulting, threatening, criticising and calling a child or children names.
Signs of emotional abuse in children are aggressive and regressive behaviour, withdrawal, bedwetting, constant diarrhoea, self-harm, chronic crying, failure to go outside and play.
As a child, Benjamin said many of us can still recall the bad things told to us as children which can change life's outlook.
"If we are affected in our early childhood...those phases that we would have difficulty later on in life and I think that goes through today. We are affected by our childhood experience whether good, bad or indifferent."
He agreed that adults today who were affected as a child still deal with some form of "something."
Benjamin stated that the authority has been meeting with stakeholders in order to work on the same page in the interest of children.
Noel said the Authority would also intervene in non-nationals children.
She also spoke about four Venezuelan children who were recently separated from their parents who entered T&T illegally.
In such cases, Noel said the Immigration Division would contact the authority to assist in caring for those children until the adults are released.
"Yes, we have seen an increase in those types of request from the immigration unit and we do our best to facilitate. We need more spaces in the system to house children. But what we really need is for children to remain with families."
Reports of child abuse can be made at 800-2014 or 996 with the strictest confidentiality.