Most of America is just about to head into the most intense holiday season of the year. There will be shopping, meal preparation, decoration–and a lot of perspiration–by parents of infants and young children. Especially for young parents who work, whether in or out of the home, the next two weeks may be as chaotic and frenzied as they are joyful. So, in addition to the preparation for festivities and the hustling and bustling that make holidays not only fun, but a challenge to get done, there are safety concerns. How can we as busy parents think and do all of the things we need to do to keep our young ones safe at this time of year–the task is daunting!
Having a safe and happy holiday involves a broad spectrum of concerns for parents of young children. Parents are nothing less than super heroes protecting their children from so many factors, including exposure to winter weather, worrying whether they are warm enough or if they have wet or cold feet, whether their heads are covered, if they are getting enough fresh air and exercise, whether they are resting well or if they are consuming enough healthy food so they maintain good health throughout the holidays. Add to that crucible of concerns things that families do over the holiday season, such as family traveling, attending group activities, going shopping, holding family get-togethers, participating in religious and civic functions, and don’t forget the flu season. These positive and negative stresses impact young children’s holiday seasons as well as our own. And chaos is contagious!
As parents and caregivers, remember that young children tend to reflect what we are doing or are experiencing at the moment. With the economy full of uncertainty, children are bound to absorb the free-floating negative feelings as well as positive ones. Economic fears and frustrations are part of many families’ lives this holiday season, so we need to be attentive to our own emotions and how we express ourselves–even taking care with the tone of voice we use when we speak with our children and others in front of children. We need to make sure our kids are safe and feel safe.
Being aware of children’s excitement levels and feelings, as well as our own, will help everyone have a safe and memorable holiday time. Holiday traditions, as wonderful and fulfilling as they can be, often come with emotional baggage from past holidays. Parents need to make an effort not to unload their own grown-up cares on children. Creating and fostering good memories gives young children another gift they can carry for a lifetime–which is a lot better than having them remember you fighting with your mother-in-law or going bonkers over tangled tree lights. Less frenzy and chaos also allow you as a parent and caregiver to think and react properly in a crisis, if there should be one.
If as parent and caregiver you have so many things you must do during the holidays, you need to revise your schedule to make time to be with your children. Carve out some personal time every day for you and your child, so your young child continues to know you care and feels secure. Whether the time you spend with them is just before they go to bed or is during a meal you share, let them know you are not too busy to listen to or just be with them. That extra time you spend with them is a gift.
Underwriters Laboratories has some practical holiday safety fire tips for parents too, and we cannot restate these often enough as they help save lives:
- Make sure fireplace mantles are clear of all decorations before any fire is lighted.
- If a fireplace or woodstove is used, make sure to use the fire screen and shut woodstove doors.
- Make sure chimneys are free of debris and hearths are clean before lighting a new fire.
- Never burn wrapping paper in the fireplace. This can create sparks that cause house fires.
- If you use space heaters, move them at least 3 feet (36 inches) away from anything that can burn, such as curtains, dresser scarves, table cloths, etc.
- Never leave a space heater on when you go to bed or leave the house.
- Never place anything on top of a space heater to dry!
- Check all electrical outlets to make sure they are not overloaded.
- Never run an extension cord under a rug or tack it to a wall with a nail or staple.
- Make sure not to use any cord that is frayed or if the plug is damaged in any way.
- Look for the UL symbol on the electrical cord to make sure it is rated for indoor or outdoor safe use.
Many home fires over the holidays are caused by burning candles–so please to avoid home fires, simply do the following:
- Move candles away from anything that can burn.
- Make sure to blow out candles if you leave a room or go to bed.
- Store all matches away from where children can get to them.
- Never leave a burning candle unattended.
Childsafetyblog.org wishes you the happiest, healthiest and safest of holiday seasons!