Safety Planning for the Holidays

This post was contributed by Emma, an advocate at loveisrespect

holiday-safety-planningThe holidays are often a time of joy and community, but for people in abusive relationships, the holidays can be stressful and dangerous. Spending time with family and friends, dealing with financial stress and traveling can make safety planning a challenge. Family and friends of survivors may also struggle to find ways to help or be supportive. We wanted to offer a few suggestions for survivors and friends or family of survivors for making the holidays feel safer.


Many survivors feel isolated in their unhealthy or abusive relationships. Reaching out to family and friends can be an important step in healing. It can help to discuss safe times and ways to communicate. You might consider if there are times during the day when the survivor is typically away from their abusive partner. Or, it might be safer for them to email or text rather than call. (It’s best to make sure the abusive partner does not have access to the survivor’s email account or phone before using these methods to communicate). Make a plan to keep checking in during the holidays. You can also create a code word, which allows the survivor to let someone know they need help without tipping off their partner. Be sure to agree on what action the code word calls for: does it mean you will call them, come over, contact the police, etc.?

It may feel instinctual for family or friends to say an abusive partner is not welcome at a holiday function. You have the right to say who is or isn’t welcome in your home, but emotional support and safety planning can help both you and the survivor to move forward. Keep in mind you can talk or chat with a Hotline advocate to figure out what will work best for you. If you’re worried about someone who is experiencing abuse and you’re not sure what to say, learn more about how to help a friend or family member here.

Traveling Safely

Traveling is a common part of holiday plans. It makes sense that survivors would not feel safe spending time in a small space, like a car or plane, with someone who hurts them. We have tips for safety planning around travel for emotional/physical safety and if you’re traveling with children.

Planning for Visits

A survivor knows best what will help them feel safe, so consider discussing ways to make parties or family visits safer. An example is asking if alcohol tends to worsen an abusive partner’s behavior. Could the family or friend group make a commitment to not have alcohol around, or to limit the amount served? If you’re a survivor who does not feel safe sleeping in the same room as your partner, consider talking with your hosts or family about finding a separate couch or sharing a room with other guests or family members.

Planning for Time Alone

Abuse is about power and control, and many unhealthy or abusive partners may try exert control by keeping their partners from spending time alone or with others. So, it can be helpful to brainstorm ways to get some space. If you’re a family member or friend, you might ask the survivor to go on a shopping trip or errand with you, go for a walk or workout, invite them to a religious celebration or have them help you with a chore/holiday prep activity. If you’re a survivor, consider brainstorming reasons to get out, like helping someone with holiday plans or gift shopping; you can get creative with these ideas.

Safety Planning with Children

Protective parents work really hard to make the holidays a special time for their children. But what can help when your partner or co-parent is abusive? If you have children with you this holiday, our post on safety planning with children is a good place to start. The post covers unsupervised visitation, safe child exchange and ideas for children living with an abusive parent.

Practice Self-Care

The holiday season is stressful for many people, but getting through the holidays while experiencing abuse can feel really overwhelming. Taking time for your health and wellness can make a big difference in how you feel. To learn more about how to build in self-care while staying safe, check out this page.

Seeing someone you care about being hurt is also stressful. Remind yourself that you can’t make decisions for someone else, but you can ask a survivor what they need and offer help. We do our best helping when we are taking care of ourselves, so try to make your own plans to get rest, get good nutrition, talk to supportive friends and do things you enjoy. also has a great page on self-care tips and ideas.

At The Hotline, we believe everyone deserves a safe, healthy holiday. If you’d like more help with safety planning or self-care this holiday season, call us anytime at 1-800-799-7233 or chat via our website from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Central time.

5 replies
  1. Margaret says:

    I am in an abusive relationship and I have unfortunately had a good holiday in so long. Every holiday ends up stressful and intimidating because my husband will freak out every time.

    • HotlineAdmin_LC says:

      Hi Margaret,

      Thank you for reaching out. Navigating the holidays can be very stressful especially in abusive relationships. Your emotional or physical safety should never be something you are worried about on a holiday or a day of celebration. There is nothing you could ever do to deserve abuse. If you would like to talk to an advocate about your situation with an advocate, we are always here. We are reachable 24/7 at 1-800-799-7233 and we are reachable everyday from 7am to 2am CST.

      Take care,

      Advocate LC

    • HotlineAdmin_RG says:

      Hi Todd,

      Thank you for your appreciation, we always welcome feedback. I’m glad you found this article helpful. If you or anyone you know would like to talk to a Hotline advocate directly, please don’t hesitate to reach out. We are available 24/7 at 1-800-799-7233 and on chat from 7am-2am CST.

      Take good care,
      Hotline Advocate RG

      • Todd L., LCSW says:

        I just saw this months after! Thanks for the information and caring response. I will for sure keep the information on board and share it when appropriate!


Leave a Reply

Please feel free to add your comments, but be aware that this blog is a public space. Your email address is required to comment but will not be public or shared. Please note that entering a website address in the comment form will create a link to the sites URL. We reserve the right to remove comments that do not abide by our community guidelines.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *