4UrKids: 5 Essential Holiday Safety Tips
The holiday season is a time for family, love, expressing gratitude, and reflecting. It’s also the most important time of the year for reconnecting with friends and family, and enjoying social time with coworkers and colleagues. Even for adults, the holidays are a time when we tend to allow ourselves to get more intimate with individuals that we might not see or spend social time with during the rest of the year. In a way, the holiday season pushes us into temporary, artificially close relationships with people who we actually aren’t that close with in the first place.
For your kids, the holidays are a unique time when they have access to a lot of people (distant relatives, long lost friends, and coworkers) that they don’t know well in intimate settings such as holiday parties, dinners and get-togethers. Add the fact that these strangers might be giving them gifts (accepted and expected during the holiday season, but a behavior that also happens to be frequently utilized by abusers to groom children), and the fact that they will be observing how warm and fuzzy you will be behaving around these people, and you have the potential for a significant lack of “normal” boundary setting and boundary breaking.
Statistics say that about 1 out of every 10 kids is sexually abused before the age of 18. Shockingly, almost 90% of child abusers are known to the victim in some capacity. Worrying about protecting your child from harm during the holidays is likely the last thing on your mind, but the need for it is a sad reality. And while it might make you uncomfortable to think that your child might be at an increased risk during the season, accepting the reality and taking proactive steps to protect your child falls under your obligation as a parent.
Follow these 5 tips to prepare your kids and keep them safe this holiday season:
1. Take this time to have important conversations…
You have some time off from work, the kids have some time off from school, everyone is generally more relaxed and you’re spending much needed time together. NOW is the perfect opportunity to sit down with your kids and have the “hard” conversations you might have put on the back burners throughout the year. The difference between “good” touches and “bad” touches, what to do if someone makes them feel uncomfortable or scared, body parts (by their real names) that are off limits to anyone but themselves, as well as verbal and body language boundary setting skills are all great examples of the conversation topics important to address with your kids. For more information about the types of conversations you should be having, and pointers to help you facilitate those conversations, please see additional resources at the bottom of this article.
2. Reconsider Santa’s lap…
I don’t want to Scrooge over the time honored tradition of sitting on Santa’s lap, and if your child is all about Santa then more power to him or her, but please think twice about pressuring any child that doesn’t want to sit on the lap of a strange man to just go ahead because after all, “It’s only Santa.” Bribing tearful kids afraid of sitting on a grown adult’s lap with the promise of gifts is never a good idea. Nor does it seem very cheery. We want to encourage children to state their personal boundaries and then teach them how to respect those boundaries by respecting them ourselves.
3. Offer multiple options for a polite greeting and farewell…
Similar to the Santa tip, is the practice of pressuring a child to hug someone upon greeting and/or leaving. A polite greeting and farewell is an important life skill to instill and practice, but you can require a polite greeting without forcing a child to break their personal boundaries. A hand shake or high five, along with an audible verbal greeting and eye contact should be acceptable. Before hosting or attending parties, take a few minutes to go over and physically practice the components of a polite greeting. Offer your child the different options of a hug, handshake, or high five, but emphasize that it’s their choice to make depending on how comfortable they feel. If a family member or friend pressures your child for a hug, it’s important that you step in to explain your family policy. If you’re worried about offending the person, you can always say that your child is working hard to practice the art of a handshake.
4. Explore a host’s home and designate “no-go” areas…
It is difficult for abuse to happen if it’s not in isolation. If you and your kids are attending a holiday party at someone’s home, take a few minutes after arriving to explore the house with them. Designate play areas that are open and clearly visible and designate “no-go” areas that are more isolated or more likely to be empty. Consider this idea even if you are hosting a larger party at your own home.
5. Limit alcohol consumption and be aware…
It’s your time to unwind and celebrate too, and by all means you should. Keeping in mind that alcohol greatly impairs judgment and reduces our ability to observe, limit alcohol consumption at larger parties with your kids so that you can be better equipped to observe the interactions of other adults with them, and to keep tabs on your child. If you are attending a party with your significant other, take turns being the parent “on call” so that each of you has the opportunity to fully socialize and mingle without worry.
For more information about boundary setting conversations and child abuse prevention strategies, check out these great sites:
Did I miss any? Let me know what you think!
Jarrett Arthur provides customized self-defense training and education to women, kids and parents. She created M.A.M.A. Self-Defense, a revolutionary system designed for moms that focuses on how moms can protect their children during violent encounters, as well as what and how to teach kids about personal safety. One of the highest ranking female black belts in Krav Maga in the U.S., Jarrett has been featured as a self-defense expert on “Ellen”, “Access Hollywood”, “Good Day LA”, “The Kris Jenner Show”, KTLA Fox News, in Fitness Magazine, The NY Times, and more. Learn more about Jarrett at JarrettArthur.com.
Working to improve the world one child at a time, Ginger has made it her life mission to raise awareness of the world-wide epidemic of child abuse. An impassioned child advocate, trainer, speaker and child forensic interviewer, Ginger can be contacted via her website “Ginger Kadlec: 4UrKids™” at gingerkadlec.com or find her on Facebook at facebook.com/gingergkadlec.
c interviewer, Ginger can be contacted via her website “Ginger Kadlec: 4UrKids™” at gingerkadlec.com or find her on Facebook at facebook.com/gingergkadlec.
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