’Tis the season for decorations, dinner parties, and family togetherness. But it can only take a split second to ruin the most wonderful time of the year.
Parents cannot prevent every boo-boo or hurt feeling, but they can try to provide as safe an environment as possible. This way, the holidays will be filled with warm, fuzzy memories and not avoidable mishaps. Here are a few tips to make the holidays safer for everyone.
Every parent’s worst nightmare is Little Aisha getting lost in a mall full of frazzled holiday shoppers. Toddler harnesses can be controversial, but if you have a wiggly little one, they can be a good idea in busy places. While you should have your kids memorize your cell phone number as early as possible, they can still forget. To make certain of their whereabouts, you could always buy a kids GPS watch. That way you can track where they are even in a crowded shopping center.
Then again, you could let your kiddos skip the shopping trip altogether. Long lines and dense crowds can be overwhelming for little ones and boring for older kids. Try to swap babysitting duties with a friend. That way you can get most things checked off your list without a dozen bathroom and pretzel breaks. You can return the favor by watching your friends’ kids another day.
More than 200,000 kids in the United States end up in the emergency room each year due to toy-related injuries. The number one culprit: skateboards, scooters, and other riding toys that can cause head injuries and broken bones. Always check the recommended age and height/weight limit for any toy you give or receive. Then insist on helmets and knee pads. If they want to ride their new gift, they must wear protective gear.
If your child has a severe food allergy, make sure hosts and potluck contributors know in advance. For little kids, pin a note to their clothing that reads, “Please don’t give me any nuts” [or dairy, or shellfish, etc.]. Keep allergy medication and an EpiPen in your shimmery holiday clutch because you never know when you might need it.
3. Help Your Kids Establish Boundaries
The holidays usually mean being surrounded by extended family and friends. This can also be a great opportunity to talk about boundaries and consent with your children. If your five-year-old doesn’t like to sit on Uncle Bob’s lap or give bear hugs, that’s OK. Saying no to a kiss is not being disrespectful. Have a good touch-bad touch talk and be extra careful during sleepovers if you are not going to be around your children.
As much as we wish it were not true, most sexual inappropriateness begins with people kids know as opposed to random strangers. Always keep the lines of communication open. Your children should be able to confide in you if something feels off. Teaching them to trust their gut is a great life skill. Never dismiss it if they voice some concerns to you.
4. Protect Your Child’s Emotional Safety
Oftentimes parents equate safety with only the physical aspects of keeping their kids safe. However, tweens and teens face immense peer pressure online every day. The best gift you can give them is self-esteem. Feeling content with how they look and what they have is a huge blessing.
Keeping up with the Joneses is magnified during the holidays thanks to social media. From touched-up family portrait sessions to who got the latest gadget or designer bag, the competition can be fierce. When other kids flaunt their gifts online, your child may feel inadequate or unlucky if they didn’t get the hottest trend.
TikTok and other platforms have family pairing and other parental controls. Don’t be afraid to filter the type of social media content your kids are consuming to help ensure their emotional safety.
Social media FOMO is far from the only internet danger kids face. Children may know better than to get into a stranger’s car, but they might become best friends with someone online. Tommy6345 may claim to be a fourth grader, but he could be a sex offender. Encourage your kids to play online games only with people they know. And tell them to never share their full name, school, or home address.
Teach your kids online financial safety by learning how to spot scams and prevent identity theft. If a holiday deal sounds too good to be true, it usually is. The same goes for you, too. Don’t risk giving your credit card details to a website promising a brand-new gaming console for $50.
If the latest toy is out of stock at retailers, you might find it at an online marketplace. However, be wary of financial transactions with strangers when you take things offline. Your police department may have a designated area for safe exchanges. Always take someone with you and thoroughly check the item before paying.
You might have gleaned lots of home decor inspiration on Instagram, but always factor in kids and pets. Make sure the holiday lights have a UL mark, which means they are tested for safety. Keep glass or pointy ornaments out of the reach of young children. If you put up a Christmas tree, secure it well so a feisty feline can’t knock it over.
Even if your children are older, baby-proof as necessary if other kids will visit for the holidays. Lock up the cleaning supplies, cover electrical outlets, and cushion sharp glass table edges.
Get flameless candles and be extra careful with fireplaces, large fryers, and fire pits. There are more household fires during the holidays than anytime during the year. Don’t let yourself become part of those statistics.
While the holidays are a joyful time, they are not without risks. But by taking precautions, you can enjoy the most wonderful time of the year in a safer way.