Reduce Stress To Prevent Child Abuse During Holidays

Ruzanna Harutyunyan's picture

Even in very loving families, stresses can increase during the holidays.

With kids home from school, travel and seasonal shopping and its expenses, parents can get frazzled more easily than usual. What is usually a fun and happy time for children can become devastating when parents or caregivers cope by becoming abusive.

The Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services (CHFS), the state agency charged with child and adult welfare, reminds adults to keep their cool this winter when it comes to disciplining kids.

"Parents enjoy spending time with their children, but frustration can escalate during times of high stress," said Jim Grace, assistant director of the Division of Protection and Permanency in the CHFS Department for Community Based Services (DCBS). "It's never OK to hit a child."

When parents are upset with a child's behavior, a tried-and-true method to regain composure is leaving the room and counting to 10, Grace said.

"Once you return to your child, stay composed and speak in a calm voice," he said. "Keep a clear head so you can appropriately discipline for unacceptable behavior."


Teach children how to communicate, Grace said. Ask them to talk about what's bothering them rather than reacting by hitting or yelling. Model this behavior, and ask other adults around your children to do the same.

"Children are usually better behaved when their parents and caregivers are happier and more relaxed," Grace said.

If you're under stress, talk to someone. Give other parents a break by offering to listen. Sometimes just being able to express anger and frustration helps ease tension.

Grace said staff at county DCBS offices may help parents by finding resources to deal with the household problems that may cause stress, such as loss of a job. Community resources are often available to assist families who need help with services like utilities, child care or job training.

"The local offices can assist with referrals to appropriate agencies," Grace said.

Prevent Child Abuse Kentucky (PCAK), one of the cabinet's community partners, is a statewide nonprofit agency whose mission is to prevent the abuse and neglect of Kentucky's children through its outreach.

"Abuse and neglect are associated with short- and long-term consequences that affect not only the child and family, but also society as a whole," said PCAK Executive Director Jill Seyfred. "PCAK gives parents and caregivers expert guidance on child safety. We're proud to be one of DCBS' partners in prevention."