It is every parent’s nightmare. They wait in fear for the day their child will come home sullen and hesitatingly tell them about an uncle or an aunty (why not?) who made them feel dirty. They pray every day that such a day never comes. As children grow, it is inevitable that they have to head out into the world, out of their parent’s protective embrace and supervision.
They go to school, in the school buses or auto-rickshaws, go to day care, go to play in the garden, are taken by some schools for field trips. In all these forays outside home, the children need to be equipped with information and awareness about how to fend for themselves. If someone does approach them with wrong intentions, the children must be able to protect themselves and not feel guilty about it. And the onus lies on us parents to teach them how they can do it.
This short film (also available in hindi, marathi, malayalam and bengali) by Childline India , an organization that is working since 1996 to help ‘children in distress’ is currently going viral in the social media. The reason being, with its cute animation, this is one video parents can show children and children can actually understand. When this video first appeared on my Facebook feed, I dismissed it as another video scaring parents about the kinds of abuse their kids might face. I already have sleepless nights wondering what if I miss the signs, if they come, and I didn’t need another reminder of the grotesque world we live today in. However, this video doesn’t scare, it educates.
Watching this video made me realize that the relationship we have with our kid plays a major role in preventing child abuse. Our children must be able to trust us enough to be able to come and share with us both the good and the bad things that happen with them. While such trust is supposed to come intrinsically, if a parent is too strict, too controlling or too dismissive of the child, the child might not feel comfortable talking to him or her. A child must be able to believe that his or her parent will understand what she is saying and show empathy, instead of chiding them back. Thankfully, parents of today are ready to go that extra mile to gain that trust, compared to the parents of previous generations.
With that trust as the base, parents must also make their kids aware of good touch and bad touch. This is so beautifully explained in this video. However, it is also important that parents learn to recognize tell tale signs of things not being right, even if the child is not ready to confide in them. Here are some small pointers that parents can look for –
1. Persistent refusal to go to school / in van / day care despite eliminating all possible causes for the refusal.
2. Persistent sulking and reticence. While this might be easier to recognize in children who are usually extroverts, in kids like S, who is shy by nature, parents need to develop a trained eye to notice the difference between the usual behavior and abnormal behavior.
3. Aggression. Some children might resort to the other extreme, and show extreme aggression, which again is beyond their normal behavior.
4. Suspicious marks in private areas. The video identifies 4 private areas that should be out of reach of anyone except the people children trust most, i.e. Parents – Mouth, chest, between legs and the buttocks. It is usually the mother who bathes the kid, and while bathing, we should keep an eye out for any suspicious injury near these parts. If there is no logical explanation for these injuries, then there might be cause for worry.
The world we grew up in was definitely a lot more safer than the world our children are growing up in. One can never be too careful, though one does run the risk of shielding the child too much. Wisdom is therefore in giving the children their wings, along with the rudder of awareness to keep them safe from prying hands.
May this New Year be a safe and happy one for our children!
Yamini is a software professional turned work-at-home-mom. Amidst her domestic responsibilities and a very demanding 2.5 year old son, she snatches time to write academic papers, freelance content, fiction and poetry. Her stories and poetry have been published in various online literary magazines and anthologies by Penguin Books and Cyberwit Publications. Yamini voices her thoughts now and then at http://myexpressionsandme.