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Help protect children and families this holiday season

November 24, 2016

The holidays are again upon us. Today we celebrate Thanksgiving, and soon, Hanukkah, Christmas and Kwanzaa. Times for family, friends, food, gifts and celebration for most of us. But for those afflicted by violence, abuse, neglect, addictions and mental health challenges, the usually cheerful season is a little different.

happy-thanksgiving-day-quotesThe happiness is overshadowed by fear, uncertainly, depression and the many consequences of addiction. For too many, an already bad situation spirals into blackness and bleakness. Even for people who have not been exposed to trauma, the holidays can be a stressful time.

The reasons are legion – time off school makes children more accessible to predators; stress increases the likelihood of angry outburst and episodes of violence; financial difficulties from buying gifts and travel add even more stress and pressure. The short days and lack of sunlight in winter also can trigger bouts of anxiety, loneliness and depression, and seasonal affective disorder (SAD).

A 2008 poll on holiday stress conducted by the American Psychological Association revealed that eight out of ten Americans anticipated stress during the holiday season.

There are so many triggers in play that it’s critical we be especially vigilant this time of year – even more so than every day – to indicators of abuse or neglect, bouts of anger, detaching or masking behaviors, etc., that may signal that someone we know and care about needs our help.

Here are some helpful tips from the Face It Movement:

Tips for parents to keep their cool this winter:

  • While listening to a child cry can become frustrating, shaking or harming a child is never the answer.
  • When you are upset with your child, give yourself some space. Walk away and count to 10 to calm yourself down.
  • It is okay to leave the child in a crib or other safe place while you regroup.
  • Keep calm. Your anger only ignites the situation and changes the focus from the behavior of the child to you anger.

If you witness abuse:

  • Document the situation and report it to authorities.
  • If you are close with the caregiver, attempt to intervene and de-escalate a potential harmful situation in a kind and non-judgmental manner by offering to help.

We all have a role in helping make the holidays the best and most enjoyable season possible, so let’s do our best to reduce the risks of abuse, neglect, depression, anxiety, violence and addictions, and protect children and families around the holidays, and every day of the year.