Holiday Child Protection

Jessica T. White, M.S
For many families globally the holidays are some of the most vulnerable times for children and families. Excitement permeates the atmosphere and charity fills the hearts of many. The joy of the season and the anticipation of joining family and friends causes a false sense of safety, leaving children exposed to predators and child sexual abuse material.
If you are a parent, guardian, or someone working with children and teenagers, you know how easy it is to get distracted by the daily task of preparing for the holidays. Be it gift shopping, preparing the holiday menu, or decorating the home, it’s easy to forget your most important role—to keep children safe.

Oftentimes, during the holiday season, family rules are more lenient, allowing an extended bedtime and time spent with peers, more screen time, forgetting to schedule a time to shut down the Wi-Fi, and, well, the list goes on. Hear me clearly when I say there is nothing wrong with loosening the reins a bit. However, as a child protector, it is important to set parameters and guidelines to safeguard your loved ones, in addition to empowering children against sexual crimes.

Here are some particular tips you can take to safeguard your loved ones this holiday season.

Establishing Relationship

Be quick to hear and slow to speak.

Building a healthy rapport with your child today develops a firm foundation of trust for a lifetime. A relationship takes more than one individual. Take the time to learn and understand your child through observation, empathic response, and engagement, demonstrating you care and are listening. One of the many tactics child perpetrators use is manipulation through establishing a pseudo-relationship. Predators know how to build an emotional bond by providing a “listening” ear. This, in turn, makes the child feel a sense of validation. As a child protector, when you take the first step to cultivate a genuinely healthy relationship with your child, it can reduce the risk of sexual crime victimization.

Let’s take a look at a real-life example.

Child protectors are like shepherds taking care of their flock, and the children are the sheep within the flock. When a true shepherd knows each of his sheep, he is able to call them by name. When a stranger calls the sheep, they do not answer but flee. Because a genuine and healthy relationship is established over time, the sheep know and respond to their shepherd’s voice. When you take the time to cultivate a relationship, no matter how tasking it may become, as children develop and grow they will also remember the sound wisdom and knowledge of their protector.

Parameters and Guidelines

A house without rules leads to destruction.

Establishing a relationship allows you the opportunity to empower your children through sexual abuse prevention education. Equipping children with age-appropriate information about sexual crimes against children helps your child better understand why parameters and guidelines are so important within your household. Here is what you can do to get the ball rolling:

● Provide a detailed explanation of sexual abuse prevention education through genuine family discussions. This develops self-awareness within your child.

● Set expectations of appropriate and inappropriate use of technology.

● Educate yourself of hidden apps and technology.

● Monitor electronic devices.

Setting parameters and establishing guidelines through education allows children to speak up for themselves and others when they feel unsafe.

Set Healthy Body Boundaries

Parameters and guidelines are a gateway to teaching healthy body boundaries. The holiday season is one of the most progressive times when sexual abuse reports rise. Allegations of sexual abuse maltreatments during family gatherings is often reported.

What is the root cause of these reports?

According to the Darkness to Light Foundation, 90% of children who are victims of sexual abuse know their abuser. Approximately 30% of children are sexually abused by a family member. With all the excitement of family arrivals, oftentimes, we unknowingly force children into compromising situations of unsolicited hugs and kisses from relatives and friends, which can make the child feel less than empowered with no control over who they allow in their personal safety zones. Children and teenagers alike are very intuitive and sometimes they can clearly discern feelings of discomfort just from a hug or awkward stare.

This holiday season, set aside time to talk to your children about healthy body boundaries and unhealthy boundaries. Allow them to create a list of alternate greetings that will empower them and make them feel safe. Establish a special family code or text emoji they can send you when they feel uncomfortable. Lastly, remind them that no matter who it is or what has happened they should TELL SOMEBODY. You are a child protector and it is your role to keep your children and families safe.

Happy Holidays and God Bless.

Copyright © 2021 Sexual Exploitation and Abuse Child Protection Agency, LLC All rights reserved.

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