We know how overwhelming the holiday season can be. Kids are out of school, you need to get holiday shopping done, you may have family coming to town, or you may be traveling for the holidays. But with all that is happening, it’s more important than ever to remember protecting kids is the priority. Here are some tips to help parents and caregivers:
Child Abuse Prevention Tips
During the holidays, there are additional friends and family members around and some may want to hug your child, may want to play, tickle and even have your child sit on their lap. in general boundaries and respect are keys to empowering your kids to say no to unwanted touches, pictures, etc… by adults or other children (be sure to tell them other children may do things that are wrong also).
Let your child and others know this is a decision your child can make based on THEIR comfort level. If your child (or any other child in your life) says no or stop, their decision (and their boundaries) should always be respected.
Use the MBF 5 Safety Rules®
Visit the MBF Safety Rules Resource page and learn all of the safety rules. Give kids the tools to say no and practice!
Pay attention to signals
A lot of times adults have a feeling that something is not quite right between an adult and a child, but they disregard that feeling because the adult in question is a family member or trusted friend, someone they think could never harm their child. Truth is, 90% of children are sexually abused by someone they and the family knows very well, 70% by a family member. Your child depends on you to keep them safe. If you have a gut feeling something is not right, ask questions, stop in, check back, and follow up. You owe it to your child to make sure you are paying attention and following up, not sweeping a feeling under the rug because it “couldn’t be” this person.
Explain Secrets vs Surprises
Secrets have a way, especially bad secrets, of tearing families apart. Teach your child that if someone asks them to keep a secret, they should tell them NO and then they should tell you. Gifts as surprises until Christmas are okay, otherwise, families should adopt a “no secret” rule!
Limit One-on-One Situations
Alone-time between your child and another adult should be limited and then you should look for situations where that time is interruptible and observable and let the adult know you will follow up by asking your child lots of questions. The fact that 80% of sexual abuse occurs in one adult – one child situations means that if you eliminate or minimize these situations, you have already protected your child better!
Remember, the key is early and ongoing communication. Look for ways to start the conversations – extra guests sleeping in the house or trips to visit family and friends are both good ways to begin this type of conversation, and then look for ways to keep the communications going. Two-way communications, where your child feels like they can come to you to ask questions must be ongoing! Parents must ensure the environment and the relationship is conducive to this happening!
Physical Abuse Increases During the Holidays
Increased time commitments and financial demands impact all families during the holidays, and sometimes, in some families, this may lead to physical abuse of a child.
If you are feeling like you may hurt your own child to know there are things you can do to get help:
- Take a breather… sort of a time out for adults! Send your child to their room and/or you go to another room and take some time to de-stress and calm down when you are feeling like you are going to lose control.
- Call a friend and ask for support. Often people don’t want to ask others for help, but that’s what family and friends are for, and most of the time, they would be happy to help, they just don’t know what we need! Asking for help is not a sign of weakness – it’s a sign of strength and love for your child!!!
- If that is not enough, you can always reach out for more professional help. Contact the Florida abuse hotline at 1-800-96-ABUSE (1-800-962-2873).
- Watch out for signs of increased stress and possible abuse in a friend or neighbor’s family. If you suspect this is the case, talk to the adult and tell them you too feel increased pressure during the holidays, and ask if there is any way you can help lighten their load.
- If you suspect the child is being, or has been, harmed, you must call the Florida abuse hotline at 1-800-96-ABUSE (1-800-962-2873). Remember, making a report is helping a family get the services they need!
It’s easy to put too much responsibility on kids that are too young with all we as parents have to do, or to leave kids too young at home alone, etc… but the holidays are no time to neglect our kids simply because we as parents are busy and have more to do! Reach out to neighbors and ask for help, share responsibilities with friends, but please don’t neglect your kids!
Remember, the holidays are about family and friends and we want it to be a safe and happy time as well. We at the Monique Burr Foundation for Children wish you and your entire family a safe and happy holiday season!Tags: Abuse, Child Abuse, Child Safety, Child Sexual Abuse, Holiday Safety, Keeping kids safe