The last things parents want to think about at the holidays is their kids being in some type of jeopardy. But like it or not, the holidays present some unique situations that could make your kids vulnerable to unwanted touching. Awful, but true. Follow these tips to prepare your kids and keep them safe during the holiday season:
1. Take this time to have important conversations. You have some time off from work, the kids have some time off from school, everyone is generally more relaxed and you’re spending much needed time together. Now is the perfect opportunity to sit down with your kids and have the “hard” conversations you might have put on the back burners throughout the year. The difference between “good” touches and “bad” touches, what to do if someone makes them feel uncomfortable or scared, body parts (by their real names) that are off limits to anyone but themselves, as well as verbal and body language boundary setting skills are all important topics to address with your kids. For more information about the types of conversations you should be having, and pointers to help you facilitate those conversations, please see additional resources at the bottom of this article.
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2. Reconsider Santa’s lap. I don’t want to be a Scrooge about the time honored tradition of sitting on Santa’s lap, and if your child is all about Santa then more power to him or her. But please think twice about pressuring any child who doesn’t want to sit on the lap of a strange man to do so because after all, “It’s only Santa.” Bribing tearful kids who afraid of sitting on a grown adult’s lap with the promise of gifts is never a good idea, nor does it seem very cheery. We want to encourage children to be clear of their personal boundaries and then teach them how to respect those boundaries by respecting them ourselves.
3. Offer multiple options for a polite greeting and farewell. Similar to the Santa tip, is the practice of pressuring a child to hug someone upon greeting and/or leaving. A polite greeting and farewell is an important life skill to instill and practice, but a polite greeting doesn’t have to break their personal boundaries. A handshake or high five, along with an audible, verbal greeting and eye contact should be acceptable. Before hosting or attending parties, take a few minutes to review and physically practice the components of a polite greeting. Offer your child the different options of a hug, handshake, or high five, but emphasize that it’s his choice to make depending on how comfortable he feels. If a family member or friend pressures your child for a hug it’s important that you step in to explain your family policy. If you’re worried about offending the person, you can always say that your child is working hard to practice the art of a handshake.
4. Explore a host’s home and designate “no-go” areas. It is difficult for abuse to happen if the child is never isolated from the group. If you and your kids are attending a holiday party at someone’s home, take a few minutes after arriving to explore the house with them. Designate play areas that are open and clearly visible and designate “no-go” areas that are more isolated or more likely to be empty. Consider this idea even if you are hosting a larger party at your own home.
5. Limit your alcohol consumption and be aware. It’s your time to unwind and celebrate too, and by all means you should. But keep in mind that alcohol greatly impairs judgment and reduces our ability to observe. So limit alcohol consumption at larger parties with your kids so that you can be better equipped to observe the interactions of other adults with them, and to keep tabs on your child. If you are attending a party with your significant other, take turns being the parent “on call” so that each of you has the opportunity to fully socialize and mingle without worry.
For more information about boundary setting conversations and child abuse prevention strategies, check out these great sites:
About the Author: Jarrett Arthur’s passion is helping others transform through self-defense training. One of the highest ranking female Krav Maga black belt instructors in the U.S., Jarrett comes armed with years of teaching experience. As a Lead Instructor, and Program Director of the cutting-edge km-X program (Krav Maga for kids) at the Krav Maga Worldwide National Training Center, she taught hundreds of men, women, and children, before embarking on her own to create unique self-defense training and education programs designed specifically for women, kids, and moms.