The holiday season is here and while for many it is a time of celebration and excitement, the additional demands that come along with this time of year can add stress to the lives of children and families. From additional time commitments, events, and family gatherings, to increased financial demands, it’s easy to see how things can feel overwhelming.
“People are overtired. Parents are working their regular jobs and trying to prepare for the holidays with meals and gifts and such and stress increases for everyone involved,” said Kathleen Holbrook, Director at the One Place Child Advocacy Center.
Unfortunately, when stress increases for families there is also an increased risk of physical abuse.
Preventing Physical Abuse
Here are some ideas from Darkness 2 Light that may help with those stressful moments during the busy holiday season:
*Take a breath. If you are on the verge of losing your temper with your child, take a break or a time-out. Send your child to their room or out to play, and take some time for yourself to calm down.
*Reach out. Call someone and ask for support. In a stress-filled, potentially escalating situation, asking for help is not a sign of weakness. It actually shows how much you love your child. If you need support beyond friends, reach out to a mental health counselor or crisis support. Hope4NC can connect you with the help you need, whenever you need it. Call 1-855-587-3463 24/7 for free and confidential emotional support, counseling referrals and community resources.
*Be a support. Watch for signs of increased stress or possible abuse in those around you such as short tempers, children who appear jumpy or scared, or any signs of physical abuse. If you notice any signs, reach out to the adult in an understanding way and offer your support.
*Report if needed. If you suspect a child has been harmed you are a mandated reporter in the state of North Carolina. It may be difficult, especially if the person you are reporting is someone you know. However, if you do not act, the child may continue to suffer. Click here for information on reporting suspected abuse or neglect in Onslow County.
Additional Resources for Managing Holiday Stress:
Preventing Sexual Abuse
More time spent with family, friends, and other people also provides increased opportunities for children to be in the presence of people they are not always around. Statistics show that 90 percent of child sexual abuse victims know their abuser and that 1 in 10 children will be a victim of sexual abuse before their 18th birthday.
“Time when families visit with one another, custody situations, relatives and friends come to visit, or your children go and visit someone else – there is an increase in sexual abuse,” Holbrook said. “Supervision may not be as close as it is during other times of the year. This is true over spring break and summer holidays as well.”
*Know who your children are going to be around. Do not make assumptions that because it is a family member or a friend that your children are safe.
*Limit alone time. Eighty percent of sexual abuse occurs in one-on-one situations between an adult and a child. If you limit the opportunity, you can better protect children.
*Be alert. Continue to supervise closely the people you leave your children with. No one is exempt, not even the closest, most beloved family member.
*Listen to your children. Stick to routines as much as possible.
*Lower your expectations. There is no such thing as the “perfect holiday,” make it manageable. Here is a link to Triple P about managing holiday expectations.
“It can be a tough time for families, especially if they’re traveling. But you just have to do the best you can. Be very aware of who you are leaving your children with. Don’t lower your guard,” Holbrook said.
Click here for information on reporting suspected abuse or neglect in Onslow County.
Click here to support the One Place Child Advocacy Center.