Safe happy kids this Christmas

21 December 2011

Christmas is a time of fun and celebration but let’s face it, it can be stressful – the family, the holiday plans, the cost…  For some it brings parties and late nights.

It can also be a real juggling act for parents who have to balance work commitments with long school holidays.

Child, Youth and Family Chief Social Worker Paul Nixon agrees that Christmas can be a really hard time for families, especially those who don’t have close people around them.

“It can heighten all those feelings about how connected, or not, we are to our own family,” Paul says. “Especially when we’re surrounded by messages about what a happy family Christmas is supposed to look like, and compare our own circumstances to ideals of bright happy celebrations,” says Paul.

These feelings combined with worries about paying for presents, and the slowing down of normal services and routines can create pressure points. “Frazzled nerves and stretched resources can expose vulnerabilities,” Paul says.

Children can be especially vulnerable during the holiday season if some of these bigger stress factors come into play. Everybody wants what’s good for their kids, but sometimes what children need can get lost in the noise of our own worries.

Tips and tricks for keeping kids safe and happy, and parents feeling able to cope:

  • Keep it simple – what children really need is love, attention, and people who care about them. If you spend the holiday season listening, talking, and playing with your kids, you’ll be a long way there.
  • Don’t go crazy with the presents – it’s not worth the stress, and young children especially are just as happy with something small given with love. You could make something together for others in your family.
  • Have fun – check out what’s on through your local council. There’s lots of free stuff happening for the whole family.
  • Team up with other parents – plan get togethers for the kids and you over the break. A day at the beach or park, or just time for kids to play and adult company for you.
  • Think ahead – what are the holiday or childcare programmes I can tap into for unexpected work days, or breaks that I know I’ll need. It’s not okay to have kids home alone.
  • Who’s in my team – get in touch with people you want to be around, or you know can give you practical or moral support over this time.
  • Know in advance what services are operating in case you need them – especially if you have children with special needs or behaviours that you generally get extra help with.
  • Talk about it – if things do get a bit much, talk with a trusted friend, or call a support agency. A problem shared is a problem halved. If you don’t have people around, that’s exactly what counselling services like Lifeline are for. They can also help connect you up with other people who can help.
  • You’re not on your own – families all over New Zealand are having dilemmas of their own.

People who can help:

Barnardos 0800 422 762
Plunket 0800 933 922
It’s Not Okay 0800 456 450
Child, Youth and Family 0508 326 459

Check out the ‘ten things kids need’, and lots more ideas on our website www.cyf.govt.nz information for parents section.