Keeping Your Loved Ones Safe this Holiday Season

By UB therapist Judy Bourn, PhD, LCPC

Holiday gatherings can lead to dangerous situations so let’s talk about how to prevent and prepare for them.

Let’s talk first about medications. The pain killers, stimulants, anti-anxiety medications, and cannabis that you carry around with you.  Yes, you, and your nephew, and your grandma, and your cousin Dorothy.

Most people carry their medications around with them in their purse or backpack without thinking about whether those purses or packs are secure.  We walk into Aunt Ethel’s for thanksgiving dinner, put our bags and coats on the bed in the guest room and never think twice about the medication contents until we find cousin Joey glassy-eyed and vomiting a few hours later…

Plan ahead if you are visiting. Leave as much of your medication at home as possible.  Don’t travel with more than you will need for the visit.  Consider buying a portable medication safe; they’re small and light-weight.   Who are you visiting?  Will they have medication “available” in the medicine cabinet or elsewhere?  Can you ask them to lock their supplies up?  Can you give them a medication safe as a gift?  Most young people start to experiment with drugs and alcohol around the age of 12 years.  Talk to them about medication abuse and keep an eye on them during the visit.

Moving on from medications, let’s talk about guns.I don’t know what the last statistic is on how many homes in America have a gun, but its huge number.  Some of those guns will be in the cars you and your children are riding in, they’re in the purses your aunts are carrying, and they’re in the bedside table.  I never fail to be shocked by my loved ones and the creative (scary) places they hide their weapons.  Ask them to lock them up while you’re visiting.  Failing that, ask them to show you where they are hidden, and keep an eye on the kids.

Okay, now let’s talk about physical and sexual abuse.  Two facts you need to have:  children under 9 years old are most vulnerable to being sexually abused and children are most likely to be abused by someone known to them, not by a stranger. Talk to the children you love about not keeping secrets and encourage them to tell you if they are uncomfortable with someone, no matter what or when.

If you have any concerns about a child’s welfare, call the state child abuse hotline.  In Illinois that number is, 800-25-ABUSE (800-252-2873).  You can be anonymous.  Reporting child abuse is very simple and does not necessarily result in the child being removed from their parent(s).  Sometimes the resources that DCFS can provide a family are just what they need to thrive.

Alcohol and drug use. Keep your wits about you (don’t over indulge yourself) and if you are the host, don’t overserve.  Fewer arguments will break out and fewer people will be sick in your bathroom.  If someone does over indulge, have someone help them get home or let them sleep at your house.  Coffee is not going to help, they will need time to sober up.

Have a safe and happy holiday season!

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