Rosemary Freitas Williams, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Military Community and Family Policy
The holidays are a joyful, hectic time to reconnect with family and friends and look forward to a brand new year. The team at Military OneSource and I recognize that this time of year can be particularly tough to manage as a military parent, especially when preparing for the holidays while keeping an eye on your children. It’s your children’s safety and happiness that is at the heart of our parenting campaign, #SafeandSound. So, we want to share some tips and resources to help you navigate the challenges of parenting during the holidays. Please take a moment to review and also share the info with other military parents.
Given the amount of preparation for activities during the holidays, it is easy to get distracted. Look out for these scenarios, and consider these tips:
- Holiday shopping comes with congested roads and parking lots. Pay attention and look for distracted or erratic drivers when walking with your children. And, when driving, go extra slow and turn down the music in your car. During peak travel times, be on the lookout for signs of impaired drivers, then change lanes and report the license plate to protect other families.
- Managing holiday logistics and children in the car makes you more likely to become a distracted driver yourself. Never try to resolve an issue with a child while driving. Make the safe choice. Pull over before making adjustments or picking up your child. And, above all, keep your eyes on the road, watch your speed, use hands-free devices for answering urgent calls, and never text and drive.
- Minimize the distractions kids can bring as passengers – especially on long road trips to family gatherings. Make sure your children have safe toys and mess-free snacks and beverages to keep them occupied and satisfied.
The busyness of the holidays makes it even more challenging to supervise your kids. These tips will help you keep an eye on your children:
- Always keep your children in your line of vision, even when you are cooking and cleaning or socializing when company arrives. You can always enlist a trusted, local source for childcare while you prep, or make sure your kids are with a relative or family friend at your party who’s capable of watching them.
- Make sure there is always a sober, watchful adult in the room with children during festivities. If you are going out, make arrangements for childcare.
- Never leave children unattended during the holiday commotion in stores and public spaces. Hold hands with your young children in parking lots, teach them to stay alongside you in packed areas, and make a plan for what to do if separated.
- Never leave a child unattended in a vehicle. Always bring your kids with you, and take advantage of stores’ strollers or “child-size” carts for children to push around. If all else fails, leave your child with a responsible caretaker before going shopping.
- Check your local and installation guidelines before leaving your kids home alone when shopping trips come up. Call Military OneSource (800-342-9647) if you need help checking.
Decorations and gifts add to the festive holiday atmosphere, but you need to pay special attention that they’re not a home hazard for young children. Take a look at the below safety guidelines for some common holiday items:
- Choose age-appropriate presents for children, and pay attention to the packaging for age-guidelines and safety warnings. Inspect new toys for choking hazards, and consult the Consumer Product Safety Commission for detailed toy safety guides.
- Remember, kids are often just as excited about a present’s packaging as the present itself. Remove dangling ribbons, Styrofoam, plastic wrapping, and twist-ties immediately after very young children open their gifts.
- Make sure decorations, like sparkly garlands and bright strings of lights, are secure and hanging high out of reach so they don’t become loose or strangling risks. Cover electrical cords so children don’t trip.
- Set your tree in a sturdy, wide base so children (and pets) can’t topple it over. Place ornaments that are breakable or have sharp hooks out of reach, toward the top of the tree.
- Place common holiday plants that are poisonous to humans, such as mistletoe, holly berries, and Jerusalem cherry, in areas children can’t reach.
- Use fireplaces, candles, trees, and electrical cords and other potential fire hazards that come along with the holidays with caution. Check out these holiday fire prevention tips from the U.S. Fire Administration.
- Prevent alcohol poisoning – believe it or not, it’s a common risk for children during holiday festivities. Set up a bar far out of reach of curious children who may not know which drinks are filled with alcohol. Do not leave bottles and glasses filled with alcoholic beverages unattended. Also, politely remind guests to keep their drinks with them out of concern for any children.
For more parenting information, tips, and resources, explore Military OneSource’s Safe and Sound Campaign, follow us on Facebook with #SafeandSound, and contact us at Military OneSource at 800-342-9647 with questions. If the holidays are starting to feel overwhelming, remember that the Military OneSource call center also offers free, non-medical counseling and consultation services via telephone, face-to-face, secure video chat, or online chat. This service is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Military OneSource is here to help you be the best parent you can be in the midst of the busy holiday season and throughout the year. We wish our entire military community – past and present – the happiest of holidays, especially those who serve in harm’s way. Rest assured we’re always here to support your family.
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