Put protection first this holiday season.
During the holidays we spend lots of time and money attempting to create magical experiences for our children. We hang decorations, bake cookies, and sing songs. We take great care in the gifts we purchase, looking for ones that marry education and fun, and hoping the thrill will last all year long.
But how well do we monitor our children’s social experiences during the holidays? The adults that surround a child create the protective environments that keep them safe, no matter the time of year. This year, make a point to revisit your family’s child protection plans.
Here are five tips to get you started:
- Be prepared to enforce your child’s boundaries. The holidays can be stressful when interacting with family or friends who don’t know your family’s child safety policies. Aunt June will probably want a hug from little Susie when she sees her, but remind her that it’s up to Susie to decide if she’d like to show affection and how. It’s not personal, it’s just how things are. Take this opportunity to remind your kids that they should never feel like they have to give in to pressure to show affection, no matter who the person asking for it might be. This is also a great time to remind children that if they ever feel uncomfortable, they should let you know so you can help.
- Don’t let household rules get thrown out in the midst of holiday madness. Day-to-day schedules can be very different during the holidays. Kids are out of school for long stretches, family members are visiting, and throughout it all you need to decide which rules remain in place and which rules can flex. Have a no closed doors policy? Don’t let an influx of guests change the rules in your home. Kindly educate them on the rules and move on. Strive to create normalcy in the midst of chaos and don’t let your protective rules fall by the wayside.
- Remember that it’s okay to say no. Protect your sanity by giving yourself permission to say no. You can’t do everything (no one can), so decide what is most important to you and make those things a priority. Let the rest go. Do you attend the same gatherings or do you create a new tradition? Do you opt out to do your own thing if it’s in the best interest of your child/family? For those with toxic family environments, saying no can be a vital part of keeping stress low during the holiday season.
- Be prepared to speak up. You may find yourself in a situation where you can intervene on behalf of a child (yours or someone else’s) who might find themselves in situations where they appear to be uncomfortable or uncertain of expectations. Uncle John may think it’s fun to tickle, but if Susie clearly doesn’t like it, you can and should say something. Be brave and know that even if you risk hurting feelings, it’s more important to put the child and their protection first.
- Know where your kids are and who they’re with, even in a family environment. The adults might be in the kitchen or grouped around the dining room table while the kids are off playing. Don’t assume that they’re in a safe space. Require them to play in open areas where play can be observed. Your children may be playing with others they see only a few times a year, so guidance may be required. Provide careful supervision to ensure a safe, positive holiday experience for all.
You may find yourself in a place to make radically different choices about your family’s holiday experience in spite of family pressures and expectations. Be brave. Be merry.
“There comes a time in your growth when you start making choices from a very different place. And if a choice lines up so that it supports truth, health, happiness, wisdom, and love, it’s the right choice.” – Angeles Arrien
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