Do the Holidays Cause an Increase in Child Abuse?

December 13, 2021
holidays child abuse
holidays child abuse

This time of year, television shows often feature family get-togethers in beautiful vacation homes. However, many people do not have the kind of holiday that is portrayed in popular culture. They may have difficult relationships with family members and financial and time constraints that make the holiday season particularly difficult.

The stress of the holidays can foster an environment ripe for child abuse or neglect. Parents experience pressure to have resources to provide holiday meals and gifts, as well as the pressure of having children home from school for extended times on holiday break. Trying to deal with all of the stresses of the holiday season can overwhelm parents.

During the holidays, children are often exposed to more people than their immediate family, peers, and teachers during the holidays, including babysitters, distant relatives, and visitors. Unsupervised time with these adults can present risks of neglect and abuse. Various child protection services and aid organizations around the nation report an uptick in reports of abuse during the holiday season.

Child abuse and neglect can take many forms. It can be neglect of the basic needs for care, support, food, and shelter. It can be an environment where aggression, yelling, blame, and physical or sexual harm takes place. It can also be more subtle and involve spending too little time attending to a child’s needs or asking them to take on too many or inappropriate responsibilities.

Reducing the Risk of Child Abuse

It is important for parents to be aware of situations that trigger abuse. The recent stress of isolation and sometimes financial and other worry bought on by the coronavirus pandemic has created an even more stressful time. Some have resorted to maladaptive behaviors, such as drinking too much alcohol, drugs, or being physically or sexually abusive to other members of the household. Poverty and drug addiction are risk factors for child abuse. Hopefully, before maladaptive behaviors become entrenched, some form of intervention and assistance can be used to restore good judgement and self-control.

Parents who need help can seek assistance before they get too stressed out. Parents should recognize when stress is creeping up and find a way to step back to take a mental and emotional break. A parent can suggest to their child to read a book so that they can grab a breath of fresh air.

Sometimes, parents need to vent, and having another adult that can be a sounding board can help. Try turning to a friend or colleague for support rather than taking out frustration or anger on a child. A trusted friend can often help you calm down, and they may be able to offer some help with tasks or advice on dealing with whatever is on your mind. Seek professional help if a situation appears to be getting out of hand.

Be aware that children need guidance and support from their parents. While it is important to teach them to take on age-appropriate responsibilities, it is not helpful to burden children with duties that are beyond their abilities. Make sure chores and tasks asked of children are within their abilities and not overtaxing. The holidays are a time to celebrate peace and joy. Part of that celebrating is ensuring your children can enjoy this time of year without being overburdened.

You may witness a parent experiencing stress. It can be difficult to intervene, but asking a parent if they are okay may make a difference. This is much more if that parent is a stranger, but you should still make the effort if you can.

Teaching Children Acceptable Behaviors

It is important for children to be aware of their right to autonomy. Teach children that their bodies are their own and that no one has a right to touch them or take their pictures without their permission. Let them know that it is not okay for others to hug or kiss them or show other affection that makes them uncomfortable.

Empower them to reject unwelcome touching, even from familiar family members or other adults. Let them know they can tell a trusted adult if unwelcome touching has happened. About 90 percent of sexual abuse is perpetrated by someone the family knows and trusts.

Haddonfield DCPP Lawyers at the Law Offices of Theodore J. Baker Defend Those Accused of Child Abuse and Neglect

The holidays can be stressful for many families, and reports of child abuse may increase. Many people are subject to mandatory reporting requirements, and they must report to governmental authorities when they have a reasonable belief that a child may be suffering from abuse or neglect. If you are being investigated, our experienced Haddonfield DCPP lawyers at the Law Offices of Theodore J. Baker can protect your rights. Call us at 856-795-9400 or complete our online form to schedule an initial consultation. Located in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, we serve clients throughout South Jersey, including Haddonfield, Marlton, Medford, Moorestown, Mount Laurel, and Voorhees.

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