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Keeping the Holidays Happy

December 11, 2018

The holidays are upon us and in the midst of the hustle and bustle of preparations and holiday cheer, it’s an important time to be mindful of the safety of the children in our lives. During this busy time of year there are special considerations to ensure that the holidays are safe and happy for everyone in the family.

As sobering as it may be, it’s worth keeping in mind the fact that, in overwhelming numbers (90%), children are sexually abused by people that are known, and often trusted. Because of this fact, children (and their parents) are more likely to overlook the subtle signs of grooming or abuse and children are much less likely to speak up about being abused by someone they know.

And although thinking about child sexual abuse is usually not part of holiday planning, I do believe that the consideration of the risk is well worth the discomfort of this discussion.

Holiday Gatherings

Getting together with friends and loved ones is truly one of the loveliest aspects of the holidays. A few reminders can help to keep it that way!

While it’s tempting to enjoy adult time while children are off playing in another part of the house, out of sight should definitely not be out of mind. A few things to keep in mind:

  • Have a rule that children do not play behind closed doors.
  • Adults should make a plan to check in on kids from time to time.
  • Younger children are often thrilled to be able to play with older children. This is not necessarily a harmful situation, but it’s wise to make sure all children are treated in a respectful way and younger children are not exposed to inappropriate materials.
  • Note to yourself and increase your attention if any older child or adult takes a particular interest in spending time with a child apart from the group.

Expressions of Affection

Families have differing norms around physical expressions of affection, but children need the time and space to follow their own intuition about what feels comfortable.

  • Allowing your child to make his/her own decision about how to say hello or good-bye sends a message that your child can make decisions about their body comfort and safety.
  • If relatives or friends insist on a hug or a kiss from your child, don’t hesitate to intervene to remind your child to follow their preference.
  • Work with your child ahead of time to offer alternate greetings such as a hand shake, fist bump or even to blow a kiss.

Holiday Travel

Travel during the holidays can be unusually hectic and stressful. During the holidays or any time you are traveling with a younger child, keep safety in mind.

  • Talk with your child ahead of time about the importance of staying within eye sight of a parent or adult at all times.
  • Safety during restroom visits can be especially challenging. If your child is too old to use the alternate gender restroom to stay with mom or dad, look for family restrooms which allow mom or dad to stay with the alternate gender child.
  • If you need to send your child to use the restroom without adult supervision, wait by the door and let your child know where you are.
  • Teach your child to follow his/her intuition. Let your child know that if they feel strange or uncomfortable, it is okay to step away and ask for help.

Thinking about keeping kids safe should be a regular part of holiday planning. With awareness and a little preparation, the holidays can be happy and safe for everyone!


Janice Palm, Executive Director

Thinking about keeping kids safe should be a regular part of holiday planning. With awareness and a little preparation, the holidays can be happy and safe for everyone!

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