Our kids are not kids anymore!

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Image Credit: Pexels

Do you remember your childhood? I remember mine. Till 4 or 5 years of age, I used to roam around naked. When I visited my family in Delhi, my grandfather gave me a bath or all cousins used to have a bath together. Some cousins were older to me, some younger, but I don’t remember having any discomfort bathing  naked in front of them. Well, maybe, because it was a different era! More innocent and less aware.

Today, when my daughter goes to Ahmedabad and has a shower with her male cousin, I make sure both of them are wearing their underpants. I also make sure that no male is around when she is changing clothes. She has also been taught, to never change clothes before people. Also, she knows what is good touch and what is bad touch.

I am sure there are millions of parents like me who do the same. They do not let their kids roam around naked, not even before their family (the world around has dirty eyes and you don’t want them on your child). They teach their kids good touch, bad touch. And they regularly hold sessions with their kids to teach them the way the nature works between a man and a woman.

What are we doing? We are protecting our kids in case of any untoward situation in the future. But, are we?

If a 4 year old can insert his fingers and a sharp pencil inside his classmate’s vagina, then each one of us needs to ask this question to ourselves? Are we seriously protecting our kids, or sending them down the bog of self awareness and confusion.

Do you think the child did that deliberately? Bah! A 4-year old, who doesn’t have clarity of speech, who might not even realize that he has soiled his clothes, who needs his mama to make him sleep can he actually violate another child’s body?

The poor child, doesn’t even know what he has done. Can he be blamed? I think not. It’s the collective failure of the entire society. We as parents have failed him and the little girl. We have robbed them of their innocence. We have stopped them from being kids.

Our kids are too aware: Awareness is good, but anything ‘too much’ is not! Our 4 year olds know what is a good touch, what is bad touch, what are the private parts, how babies are born. More awareness leads to more inquisitiveness.

Girls and boys are different: When girls play with girls and boys play with boys, they become more aware of their physical differences. ‘Boys don’t put on make up’, ‘Boys don’t play with dolls’ or ‘Girls are silly’ make them physically aware of one another which can be detrimental to their positive growth in the long run. This leads to girls giggling on seeing boys or boys resorting to dares like touching girls’ breasts, deliberately touching their body or lifting up their skirts.

OTT parenting: Go to any bookstore and you will find shelves full of books on parenting. Also, the Internet is full of parenting blogs (mine one of them) who can teach you how to have a normal birth to how to deal with an impossible teen. We want to raise our kids as per the latest research or as the experts say. Our kids are our favorite projects and experiments, and we want to bring them up that way. However, we tend to forget, parenting doesn’t come out of a book. Parenting is an instinct. Yes, we can definitely learn from each other, but we need to put in our respective context before applying the same.

Videos and apps are culprits too: Parents are extremely busy species, they have been for centuries. I don’t remember my mother ever playing with us; she just didn’t have the time. She was busy cooking and raising her three children. And, we didn’t have 24/7 television and mobile phones. We played with siblings, cousins and friends. Today, the mobile phone is the sibling, cousin and friends, and sometimes parents too all rolled into one. There are zillions of apps available, and not all appropriate for them. But, who checks what kind of disturbing things they might be watching?

Sexual assault is turning into an epidemic. We teach children to beware of strangers, but what do we teach them against their own classmates. We can’t be everywhere to protect our children. But, we can’t let this go too. We need to take up more responsibility for our children, however small or innocent they might be.

  • Tell your kids that girls and boys have different body parts. That is how the nature intended, and it is no big deal.
  • Avoid differentiating between girls and boys. Do not stop your kids from playing with the other gender.
  • Keep a close watch on the kind of videos your child watches and the kind of apps he downloads. Most kids at this age replicate what they see or hear.
  • Do not fondle or indulge in love making with your partner in the presence of your child. Their innocent mind won’t be able to process it, and they would want to replicate it with the other sex.
  • Watch them while playing doctor-doctor. It is the roleplay which should give you enough signals about the maturity of your child.
  • Talk to your kids regularly to understand what is going on in their mind. The way they talk or act should give you a hint.

Let us understand one thing here – that 4 year is not a culprit. He is too young to understand the crime. But, he will have to live with the repercussions of his deed his entire lifetime. Not only the girl child who was violated, but also the small boy will undergo a trauma when he will be repeatedly scolded or chided for his act. His parents should not only take him to a counselor and refrain from reminding him what he did, but should also get their act right. They need to look within themselves and find out where they went wrong.

This is an activity that every parent should undertake from time to time. It’s time we left the books alone, and got down to some real parenting!

 

 

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No bad touch – keeping our children safe

Sundays are for relaxing. But last Sunday, I had a more pressing concern to take care of. My daughter’s safety. So I pledged my Sunday morning to my daughter’s safety. Don’t worry. She is absolutely safe. But this was to keep her safe in the future as well.

One of my daughter’s schoolmate’s mother had invited a few mothers to her place to conduct a session on Child Safety. It was a really sweet gesture on her part. The session was based on Dr. Bhooshan Shukla’s ‘No Bad Touch’ program. You may read about it in detail here – http://nobadtouch.com/

You may check out the video as well: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6aH8Rwax09A

So through an interactive game, the facilitator tried to convey to the children how they can be safe and who they should run to in case of any untoward event.

I have tried to summarise some of the most important aspects of her session here. Remember, it’s important that the session is attended by the child and her parents or primary caregivers.

  • Firstly, ask the child who he/she feels the safest around. Let him/her identify their bodyguard with whom the child feels comfortable and safe. A bodyguard is the one who will listen to the child, protect the child and make him/her feel safe.
  • The kids should be taught to scream if they are approached by a stranger. Through various studies and researches on pedophiles, it’s been established that pedophiles and child molesters are cowards. If they come across a confident child or a child who can scream, they will avoid harming the child.
  • Game – Ask the children to stand in the center of the room. The parents are standing away at various places in the room. The facilitator is the ‘denner‘ who runs after the children and tries to scare them.  This should prompt them into screaming and looking out for their bodyguard. The bodyguard will place a safe arm around their ward which will make the child feel safe. Through this game, the kids are made to realise that screaming is their safety tool and that they should run away to their bodyguards in order to be safe. Also, the game highlights danger and opposite of danger – safe.

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  • Draw a picture or take a print out of a body silhouette. Circle the 3 danger zones on the body, the chest/breasts, the area between the legs and the bum in red and place a big cross on it. You may take a print out of these pictures. Show the kids that these are unsafe zones. And no one can or should touch them except their parents/caregivers while giving them a bath or the doctor during check up in the presence of their parents/caregivers.
  • Make a promise to your child that you will always listen to your child (by keeping aside whatever important work you think you are doing at that point of time) when he/she comes running to you and always try your best to keep him/her safe. Reiterate this every few days so that your child is secured in this knowledge.

You may want to re-conduct this session every 6 months to boost up the memory of the small kids.

Here are some more handy tips:

  • Make your child memorise your cellphone numbers (it may come as a shock to you, but a 3-year old can remember your phone numbers).
  • Before you step out with your child, place a small chit with your contact number and address in the pocket of your child’s dress.
  • If you visit a mall or a crowded public place with your child, show your child a place where he/she can come and find you if they get lost.
  • Teach them to greet police personnel so that they soon understand that these people too can be approached in danger.
  • Teach your child, quite convincingly, that they are not supposed to accept gifts or sweets from strangers. My personal experience is that kids nod their heads before parents, but forget it as soon as they see the sweets. It is also because parents get very upset with their kids eating chocolates and sweets and try to ration their consumption. The trick is to tell your kids that every time she refuses a sweet from a stranger, you will give her two instead. I feel decayed teeth are a small price to pay compared to the danger.

Have you already made your child aware with good touch-bad touch? If not, hurry up. You may be putting your child’s safety at risk.

Child Sexual Abuse – Don’t shush your children, save them

The news of a six-year old having been sexually abused by her school teachers has shaken the people across the length and breadth of the country. A school, which we consider a child’s second home, is no longer safe for them. But remember, most of the kids are sexually abused in their own homes and by their own family members. A child is not safe even in her own house for that matter. It’s a shocking truth, but the truth nonetheless.

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Image: pixabay

225 000 000 children are sexually abused each year. The majority of them are under 8 years of age. Isn’t it a depraved world that we live in? But blaming the society or waiting for something untoward to happen to your child won’t do.

While we cannot live in permanent fear or shadow our child everywhere, as a parent, it’s our moral duty and responsibility to be proactive and take care of our kids. Charity begins at home. And in this case, it’d better begin soon.

Here is a list of things you need to teach your child at early age:

  1. Warn your girl child ‘Never’ to sit on anyone’s laps no matter what. If the uncles or aunties are upset, so be it.
  2. Never change or dress up your child in front of strangers, extended family members or house helps. I started this practice when my daughter was just a newborn. It upset many a family members but I gave a hoot. She is my daughter and thus, her safety is my only concern.
  3. Also, this reminds of one another thing. Be particular about the kind of clothes your child wears before people at home or outside. In a playground, make your girl child wear clothes that cover her legs and torso well so that evil eyes are not drawn to her body. When you must make her wear a frock/skirt, make her wear bloomers, cycling shorts or leggings underneath. Also teach your child how to sit and stand when outside or before public eyes.
  4. Living with the child all the time, parents forget that the child is a separate human being and that they see things. Avoid getting dressed in front of your child once he/she is 2 years old. Learn to excuse them or yourself.
  5. Never allow any adult refer to your child as ‘my wife’ or ‘my husband’. I don’t understand what weird game is this?
  6. Whenever your child goes out to play with friends try to find out what kind of play they do, because young people now sexually abuse themselves.
  7. Never force your child to visit any adult he or she is not comfortable with and also be observant if your child becomes too fond of a particular adult.
  8. Once a very lively child suddenly becomes quiet and withdrawn you may need to patiently talk to your child and very cleverly draw out information from her.
  9. In Indian schools, we don’t have a well-established system of parting sex education to pre-teen or teenage kids. So it’s up to the parents to educate with dignity their grownup kids about the right values of sex. If you don’t, the society will teach them the wrong values.
  10. Toddlers and preschoolers are nowadays handling mobile devices like smartphones and tablets. It is always advisable you keep a check on which apps they generally play, websites they visit or YouTube videos they watch.
  11. Go through any new material like cartoons or story books you just bought for them before they start seeing or reading it themselves.
  12. Ensure you activate parental controls on your cable networks and advice your friends especially those your child visits often.
  13. Teach your 3 year olds how to wash their private parts properly and warn them never to allow anyone touch those areas and that includes you. When my child turned 2 and started attending a preschool, I explained to her who was allowed to touch her private parts and if anybody apart from the list touched her, she was supposed to shout ‘NO’ and run away. And tell mama all about it.
  14. When your child turns old enough to understand; introduce the subject of good touch-bad touch to them.
  15. Blacklist some materials/associates you think could threaten the sanity of your child (this includes music, movies and even friends and family members).
  16. Communicate regularly with your child. Let your child know that he/she is always welcome to come to you and talk about sex-related subjects. If something untoward has happened to her or around her, there is no shame in confiding to you.
  17. Once your child complains about a particular person, don’t keep quiet about it. Take up the case and show them you truly love them and can defend and fight for them.It’s time we stop skirting the issue of child sexual abuse or feeling ashamed of it. Our kids deserve better than this. Remember, we can choose to protect our child now or live to regret forever.

Mommy, why does that touch feel bad?

I happened to come across this video the other day which immediately made me sit up and write on this socially tabooed topic.

Remember that friendly neighborhood uncle who talked sweet but never left a chance to grope you outside the public eye, or that old relative who touched you at all the wrong places? Or even that milkman or fruitwala who accidentally (but deliberately) bumped into you touching your skin?

It has evoked some bad memories, hasn’t it? Even though 20, 30 or 40 years might have elapsed but you can still relive the horror of those moments. You have grown up and some of your perpetrators might have long gone, but their acts have stayed with you all these years. You stayed silent, didn’t speak about it to anyone in your family, not even to your mother. Yes, there was a social stigma attached to it. What could your mother have said? Or better still, what could she have done about it? The uncle was a known member of the society. No, no. It was better you didn’t say anything to anybody.

It happens to almost all girls while growing up that some member of the family or friend takes advantage of their innocence. As there is no sex awareness, most of them choose to keep quiet. And their silence is then accepted as their fate. Though there was no lecher in my family (thankfully), there was one in my neighborhood. The 50-something man used to roam around with his beaded ‘mala’ chanting ‘Hare Rama Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna Hare Hare” and then would deliberately try to mingle with young girls touching them inappropriately. Though all of us hated him and avoided going near to him, none of us complained to our parents. I can’t recollect now why we were afraid of reporting him to our parents.

The times have changed but the people have not. Young girls are the same and the society is still the same, full of sick and depraved people. But what still rankles is the lack of awareness amongst the parents. I have a little daughter and my blood boils every time I think of something like this happening to her. This is the reason I resent when male members of the society; friends and family try to be too touchy-feely with her. I may be paranoid but so be it. Let her grow a little bit and I will be the first one to make her aware of this situation.

Here’s what you can do to make your little ones safe from sexual offence:

Be aware:

Being a parent, you have to shoulder a lot of responsibilities. Being aware of such behaviour in this otherwise civilized society is also a part of your responsibility.

  • Notice constantly if there is any change in your child’s behaviour; if an exuberant/naughty/extrovert child suddenly becomes quiet and brooding or their marks start falling or they lose appetite even for their favourite dishes.
  • Take steps that your child is not among strangers without mature company.
  • Except immediately family, trust no one. Even then you need to be cautious.

Better be safe than sorry:

The fruit vendor in our society is extra friendly with small kids. Though he might have meant no harm, I once saw him throwing my girl high in the air. I immediately admonished him. Similarly, you need to monitor closely. You never know who is bad and who is good.

  • Make your little child wear cycling shorts, bloomers under skirts or frocks. Under short skirts, make them wear tights.
  • Make sure their school bus has a female attendant.
  • Try not to send them in private transport.

Talk to her:

We understand that your child is young and you want to shield her from external influences. But also remember that awareness in your child is half the battle won. So as soon as your child is old enough to understand, teach her the concepts of good touch, bad touch. Most schools have this kind of knowledge parting but there’s no harm in starting early. Tell your child that she needs to talk to her teacher or parents if she feels bad after someone’s touch.

To an older child, give her/him basic sex education. Talk to your child regularly and tell her to come to you if any untoward incident happens.

Take someone in confidence:

There are circumstances on which you have no control, eg. you need to leave your child in a day care, or with family or friends. Take someone in the family in confidence and ask her/him to keep an eye on your child in your absence. When I had left my 15 months daughter with her grandparents for 2 months, I had requested my mother-in-law to be extra attentive when she played with male servants in the house.

Take her side:

If your child comes running to you complaining about some bad incident, immediately soothe her. Listen to her side of the story and take immediate steps. Most often than not, a well-respected family member/friend or a neighbor is involved. Don’t hesitate. Remember, this can traumatize your innocent child forever. Don’t choose a sexual pervert over your child. Also, take her/him to counselors for help.

If I have left something important, please share in this forum. It may help an innocent child from being a victim of sexual offence.