Over the past couple of years, The PediaBlog has looked at important safety advice during the season’s many holiday celebrations, including Christmas tree safety here, and toy safety here and here. None of the advice, most of which comes from the American Academy of Pediatrics, has changed.

It’s clear that younger children are more vulnerable than older children to the hazards of the season. Shiny, sparkly Christmas lights and decorations, and toys that may not be appropriate for the age of the mesmerized child, can all pose dangers. Routines such as meals and sleep are frequently disrupted. Unfamiliar homes that are visited may lack the proper childproofing most parents provide in their own homes. Parental distractions by guests and revelers may lead to more time that children go unsupervised. The stress that some adults feel this time of year can be contagious to children. The AAP’s healthychildren.org website offers parents timely advice to keep this holiday time safe and sane for you and your family.

These tips for happy visiting are applicable year-round:

  • Clean up immediately after a holiday party. A toddler could rise early and choke on leftover food or come in contact with alcohol or tobacco.
  • Remember that the homes you visit may not be childproofed. Keep an eye out for danger spots like unlocked cabinets, unattended purses, accessible cleaning or laundry products, stairways, or hot radiators.
  • Keep a list with all of the important phone numbers you or a baby-sitter are likely to need in case of an emergency. Include the police and fire department, your pediatrician and the national Poison Help Line, 1-800-222-1222. Laminating the list will prevent it from being torn or damaged by accidental spills.
  • Always make sure your child rides in an appropriate car seat, booster seat, or seat belt. In cold weather, children in car seats should wear thin layers with a blanket over the top of the harness straps if needed, not a thick coat or snowsuit. Adults should buckle up too, and drivers should never be under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
  • Traveling, visiting family members, getting presents, shopping, etc., can all increase your child’s stress levels. Trying to stick to your child’s usual routines, including sleep schedules and timing of naps, can help you and your child enjoy the holidays and reduce stress.

 

Speaking of stress, keeping an eye on mental health should be a priority in keeping the excitement manageable and everybody happy:

  • Try to keep household routines the same. Stick to your child’s usual sleep and mealtime schedules when you can, which may reduce stress and help your family enjoy the holidays.
  • Take care of y​ourself both mentally and physically. Children and adolescents are affected by the emotional well-being of their parent or caregivers. Coping with stress successfully can help children learn how to handle stress better, too.
  • Make a plan to focus on one thing at a time. Try a few ideas to balance the hustle and bustle of things like shopping, cooking, and family get-togethers during the holidays: Stop and pay attention to what is happening at the moment, focus your attention on one thing about it ,and notice how you are feeling at the time. Withhold immediate judgment, and instead be curious about the experience.
  • Give to others by making it an annual holiday tradition to share your time and talents with people who have less than you do. For example, if your child is old enough, encourage him or her to join you in volunteering to serve a holiday meal at your local food bank or shelter or sing at a local nursing home. Help your child write a letter to members of the armed forces stationed abroad who can’t be home with their own family during the holidays.
  • Remember that many children and adults experience a sense of loss, sadness or isolation during the holidays. It is important to be sensitive to these feelings and ask for help for you, your children, family members or friends if needed.
  • Kids still need to brush their teeth twice a day!
  • Don’t feel pressured to “over-spend on gifts.” Consider making one or two gifts. Help your child make a gift for his or her other parent, grandparents, or other important adults and friends. Chances are, those gifts will be the most treasured ones and will teach your child many important lessons.
  • Most important of all, enjoy the holidays for what they are — time to enjoy with your family. So, be a family, do things together like sledding or playing board games, and spend time visiting with relatives, neighbors, and friends.

 

Whether you and your family celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or Festivus — alone or in any combination — all of us at The PediaBlog and Pediatric Alliance wish all of you a safe and happy holiday season!

 

 

Read all of the AAP’s “Holiday Safety & Mental Health Tips” at healthychildren.org here.

 

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