For many the holidays bring out lots of food, family gatherings and celebrations at school, home, with friends, etc. For some those things that are identified as fun and exciting can actually be triggers for those who have experienced trauma due to abuse. The usual things that we here and enjoy as we celebrate like Christmas carols, certain scents, maybe even a place where family gatherings take place can bring an onset of triggers. Darkness to Light in their Stewards of Children, child sexual abuse training, shares a statistic that over 90% of children know their abuser. That abuser may be a family member, or a close family friend. Due to the stigma attached to sexual abuse, many do not share with law enforcement or even disclose to their parents is abuse has taken place.
Children who have not reported the incident and for some may have shared about it but were not believed can many times, be placed in dangerous situations during the holidays. There may even be the possibility that they may have to encounter the abuser. Or even worse have repeated abuse by the perpetrator.
So many factors play into holiday traditions. In turn those can lead to triggers for those who have been victims of abuse. It is important that we think through what needs to be done to alleviate the triggers as much as possible.
Here are some things we can do to be sensitive to a child we may know who has experienced the triggers:
- Many travel to see family. If you are going through airport security, there may be the need to experience a ‘pat-down.’ This can be triggering to some. Ask if there is a possibility for a private screening from someone of the same gender.
- Holidays can disrupt our daily routines. This can lead to eating and sleeping habits to be off as well. Be sure to encourage proper nutrition and exercise. Both of these can be impactful to mental health.
- Begin to make a plan. Think through how you may handle situations you may encounter during the holiday season.
- Allow the victim not to feel guilty if they are not overly excited or happy about the holiday time. It is okay to focus on self-care during the holiday season. Self-care is very important.
- Create meaningful rituals. Start new traditions that relieve the triggers that may come with holidays.
The intention of ‘the most wonderful time of the year’ is to be just that—a wonderful time. But for many it can bring the opposite of what is intended. It is okay if you find yourself struggling or your child struggling. Because you struggle does not define you as being a ‘grinch’ or difficult.
At the end of all of the celebrations of the season it is important to take care of you and your child. The holidays are to be a season filled with love and happiness. By you finding ways that help you navigate away from the triggers, you are working on a healthier community by ensuring that you, your child are making your self stronger and healthier for everyone, including you.
May you find love and peace this holiday season.
Prevention & Volunteer Coordinator
Child Advocacy Center