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Family Safety Tips for the Holiday Season

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Smells of delicious food from the kitchen, beautiful decorations and visits with family and friends can only mean one thing…the most wonderful time of the year is upon us. Unfortunately, the holiday season is also arguably the most dangerous time as well. From lighting hazards to influenza, a variety of dangers strike during the holiday season. Keep the following suggestions in mind as you prepare for family gatherings and holiday treats.

Safe Decorating Practices for the Christmas Tree

Both kids and pets can be harmed by Christmas trees and the ornaments used to decorate them, so choose wisely. Artificial trees are safest, but if you demand the real deal, choose a healthy tree and keep it far away from sources of heat. Make sure the tree is stable - it doesn't take much to knock down a wobbly tree. In fact, animals are drawn to natural trees because they smell, and remind them, of the outdoors. Finally, when selecting ornaments, keep anything capable of hurting pets and children out of their reach. You can still enjoy the beauty of a Christmas tree with just a few safety tweaks.

Lights and Outdoor Decor Safety

If you are like many American homeowners, you want your house to attract attention during the holiday season. This means stringing lights wherever possible, and including an inflatable Santa (or two) for good measure. However outdoor decor can be incredibly dangerous, so take extra precautions to ensure that both family members and visitors remain safe.

Before stringing up any lights, check for frayed cords or other signs of damage and avoid older lights that lack fused plugs. Ground fault circuit interrupter outlets are essential for outdoor lights, which can otherwise be impacted by debris or water. Insulated hooks are also necessary for stringing lights, which can easily be frayed by tacks and nails.

So feel free to invest in an inflatable Santa or three to show off your holiday pride. Just don’t turn into Clark Griswold and string your lights improperly.

Take Extra Precautions against Illness

Susceptibility to illness is at an all-time high during the winter months, and your exposure to so many different people won't do you any favors. If you haven't already gotten your flu shot, now is the time to do so. Make sure that your kids are also up to date on all immunizations. While you're out and about, take handwashing seriously – it’s one of your best defenses against illness. Plus good handwashing skills pay dividends well beyond the holiday season.

Keep Harmful Foods Out of Reach

Holiday foods are not only bad for your waistline but they can put your pets and young children at risk too. A variety of foods can make pets sick, but chocolate, caffeine, and foods with artificial sweeteners are among the worst. Other foods aren't quite as toxic, but can still cause problems if eaten in excess. Ideally, all Christmas foods will be securely stored when it's not mealtime. But if you feel the need to keep food out because you're hosting a party with snacks, let guests know that no matter how cute Fido is, he can’t have any table scraps.

Social Media Dangers

Internet safety has been a chief concern of tech-savvy parents for decades, but maintaining security is that much more difficult given the numerous sites and apps that track location - and the propensity of teens to ‘check in’ on social networks. Have a frank discussion with your kids about the perils of checking in on social media sites or otherwise indicating that your house could be empty during the holidays. Thieves often scan social sites searching for families that are out of town for the holidays. These types of posts, even the most benign social activity such as ‘checking in’, can dramatically increase the potential for a break-in. If your teen believes the internet will shut down if they don’t post photos, request that they do so without tagging the location or specifying the date on which the pictures were taken.

Depression During the Holidays

Parents spend so much time ensuring the safety of their Christmas trees and lights, they fail to consider even greater dangers that may lurk in their household. The holiday blues are a real problem. However, parents often fail to recognize depression and other mental health issues in kids and teens, merely because they are so caught up in the hustle and bustle of the holiday season. Keep an eye out for signs of depression, and if your child has a history of mental illness, avoid any holiday activities that might stress and trigger problems.

As you can see, a few simple precautions can keep your family safe this holiday season. Watch carefully for both physical and emotional hazards - a safe and healthy family is more than worth the extra effort.

Providing safety tips for you and your family is important to us at University of the Cumberlands. If you are also passionate about keeping others safe throughout the year we invite you to explore our Online Criminal Justice Programs

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