It is important to remember the holidays are not cheerful for everyone. Families struggling to feed themselves today will likely struggle on Christmas. A child fearful of a parent or family member will likely still fear them during Hanukah and on New Year’s Day.
Adults are often in a game of one-upmanship against their friends and colleagues about who has the most to do, cook for, clean for, and buy for during the holidays. For all the stress adults say they have, it pales compared to the stress families in crisis face. And the children caught in the yoke of distress often suffer quietest.
Even events that seem innocuous, like traveling to visit family may cause harm. Imagine a child who never disclosed a family member touched them at last year’s holiday gathering. Or a teen who knows their family is in dire financial hardship and worries — perhaps too much — the gifts they have received may cause more harm to their siblings or family.
- Parents and guardians can take steps to help their children and children in their family.
- Notice changes in tone, irritability, or anger in a child. Bring them aside and talk about what is on their mind.
- Recognize when you are at your limit and teach your kids how to do the same.
- Talk situations out to a positive outcome.
- Leave plenty of time to avoid rushing.
- Ask friends and family to bring parts of a meal.
- Schedule downtime away from gifts and other people for kids. This is good for parents and children!
- Know where kids are, even if in the house, and limit alone time. 70% of sexual abuse involves an adult, and 30% is perpetrated by another youth.
- Talk to your child about safe body boundaries. Use proper names for private parts when discussing body safety.
Remember that in Indiana, everyone is a mandated reporter of suspected child abuse. If you believe a child is in danger, call 911 in an emergency or 1-800-800-5556. The hotline will be open during the holidays.