The holidays are a joyous time when loved ones come together to share traditions and to celebrate. But for many families, the holidays can also be a time of stress and frustration, sometimes unintentionally resulting in an increased risk of child abuse and neglect.
“Research tells us that economic and personal stresses are leading contributors to child abuse and neglect,” said Wendell Teltow, Executive Director of Prevent Child Abuse Texas. “For too many parents, the holidays increase stress levels because of extra demands on their time, money and energy. To minimize the risk of abuse, it’s best to reduce unnecessary stress by planning ahead.”
Prevent Child Abuse Texas offers the following tips to help families enjoy the holidays while keeping tension to a minimum:
1. Establish a budget for holiday spending. Be realistic about what you can afford to spend on gifts, entertainment, decorations for the home, special foods, travel, etc.
2. Hold a family meeting to discuss holiday plans. Ask for ideas from the children for family activities that would appeal to them.
3. Post a calendar of family activities in a place where all family members will see it. Ask each person to remind you of school events, church activities, parties, etc.
4. Remind children that a gift’s importance is not determined by the amount of money spent on it. Handmade gifts and freshly baked cookies are welcome and appreciated by friends and relatives.
5. Check community calendars and local lists of events to find inexpensive or free activities for children. Write all possibilities on individual slips of brightly colored paper and put them in a “holiday fun jar.” When children have been especially cooperative with other family members, allow them to choose a slip of paper from the jar. Then, the family can enjoy an afternoon of skating, sledding or other fun activity together.
6. Have your children make a list of elderly or shut-in neighbors in your area. Plan to share a meal, some of your time, or run errands for these neighbors. Explain to children that helping and sharing are important elements of special holidays.
7. Find time to relax and reflect on the simple joys of the holidays. When you feel yourself becoming overwhelmed, take a break to get a better perspective on what /needs/ to be done and what /can/ be done.
8. If you find that it is becoming difficult to avoid being verbally or physically harsh with your children, STOP. Don’t take out your anger on your kids. Instead, try the following:
· Take a deep breath and count to 20.
· Phone a friend.
· Take a walk outside, or use another form of exercise.
· Laugh. Even a comedy show on television will help relieve stress.
· Spend one hour doing something you really enjoy.
Prevent Child Abuse Texas is the leading organization working to prevent the abuse and neglect of our state’s children. More information is available by accessing the organization’s web site at http://www.preventchildabusetexas.org/.