Reduce stress to prevent child abuse and neglect during holidays

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FRANKFORT, Ky. (WBKO) -- Stress can increase during the holidays, even in the most loving of families. And that can put some children at risk for abuse or neglect.

With children home from school, holiday travel and seasonal shopping and associated expenses, parents can get frazzled more easily than usual. What is typically a fun and joyful time for children can become devastating when parents or caregivers cope with stress by becoming abusive or neglectful to children.

The Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services (CHFS), the state agency charged with child and adult protection, reminds adults to ensure children are protected from abuse and neglect.

Prevent Child Abuse Kentucky (PCAK), one of the cabinet’s community partners, offered these tips to keep children safer this season:

· 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.