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Increased Stress Can lead to Child Abuse during the Holidays

The holidays can be a very stressful time for families. Families are pulled in so many different directions. Suzi has her Christmas program at school. Johnny has his band concert. Then there is the church musical on Sunday. Don’t forget the presents—we must pick out the perfect gift for all those on the list. And the list goes on, and on, and on.

Holidays are meant to be a fun, exciting time for children and adults alike. However, as stress increases it can lead to child abuse and neglect. Many factors can play a part such as children being home more, traveling to see family and friends, the financial stress the holidays can add and more. 

Prevent Child Abuse Kentucky and commissioner of the CHFS Department for Community Based Services (DCBS) share tips for adults in helping to deescalate the stress:

Count to 10.  It’s a tried-and-true method to diffuse high emotions and clear your head before you say or do anything.

Get some space. If you are so upset that you feel like screaming — or more — leave the room. Say, “I’m so angry; I need a minute to think.” Then leave the room or send your child to his room so you can calm down and regroup. You’ll get yourself under control, and it’s a good example for your children.

Be quick. Catch your child in the act. Delayed reactions dilute the effect of the punishment.

Use selectively. Use timeout for talking back, hitting and safety-compromising problems. Don’t overuse it.

Keep calm. Your anger only adds fuel to the fire and changes the focus from the behavior of the child to your anger. This prevents you from being in control.

Model disciplined behavior. Ask other adults around your children – even house guests – to do the same. Children are usually better behaved when their parents and caregivers are happier and more relaxed.

Teach children to communicate, too. Ask them to talk about what’s bothering them rather than reacting by hitting or yelling.

Talk it out. If you’re under stress, talking to someone is an easy and effective outlet. Looking to other parents for advice helps mothers, fathers and other caregivers feel less isolated in their problems. Online communities and resource sites can offer support and solutions.

Stick with it. Once you punish or say “timeout,” don’t back down or be talked out of it. If you decide to use timeout to control hitting, for example, use it every time your child hits, even if he spends most of the day in timeout. Eventually, he’ll decide that it’s more fun to play without hitting than to sit alone in his room.


It is easy to allow stress to quickly take over the dynamics of family times. Take time to think through how you will work through that extra stress at the holidays and enjoy the season of giving. The holidays are about experiencing peace, love, and joy. May you and your family experience all three of these as you celebrate during this holiday season.