Parenting: Safeguard your child!
Saying ‘Never talk to a stranger’ is not enough to safeguard your child from sexual abuse; there is a lot more to discuss and practise
We all read and talk about child abuse but have we ever considered discussing it with our children? Have we ever told them how to react if someone tries to take advantage of them? Or that even friends have limitations and how to deal with someone who approaches them in an undesirable way?
Child abuse can be a very difficult subject to discuss with children and teenagers, but it is very important to make them understand the gravity of this issue. Most child abuse and bullying instances happen because the child does not understand the situation and is not strong or capable enough to deal with it. Often children withhold information, wanting to solve their problems on their own without adults getting involved, which is not always possible. This also happens when adults are too busy with their own lives and children feel that if they discuss their problems with them, they will either ignore them or will be angry.
Child abuse needs to be taken seriously and parents must discuss it with their children instead of leaving it to society. Discussing this issue with your children shows them that you are comfortable talking about child abuse with them which puts them at ease, allowing them to openly discuss their concerns with you. An aware child feels better protected and prepared and knows how to deal with a potentially abusive situation.
There is no particular way to educate your child about sexual abuse, but a little effort will definitely help you to protect them and make them confident; the following methods will help you in this regard:
Teach your children about the private parts of the body and how to cover and protect themselves. Teach them to take ownership of their body and how to dress, walk, talk and bathe. Tell them that no one has the right to touch them without their permission and that if someone tries to get too close, they should move away or ask the person to maintain a distance. Young adults should be more careful, especially those who travel alone or with drivers, maids, etc. as they are more likely to fall prey to abuse.
Educate your child about inappropriate contact. Tell them who can touch them and how. An appropriate touch could be a handshake, a kiss on the cheek or a welcome hug — signs of affection that loved ones show. Tell them to not let others indulge in such actions. They can say ‘no’ to a handshake, a kiss or a hug if they don’t feel comfortable. Make them realise what friendship is and where to restrict themselves.
Always maintain a trustworthy relationship with your children so that they can count on and share their secrets with you because abusers usually threaten the victims by saying that if they tell their parents they will get in trouble. A healthy environment at home makes your children realise that they can discuss anything with you.
It’s natural to feel embarrassed when sharing one’s knowledge about abuse. Give them the confidence to speak their mind with ease. Tell them what to do and how to report if someone tries to take advantage of them.
Be a story teller. Share stories of others in a manner that your child learns a lesson.
Teach your child to say ‘No’:
— If someone is trying to touch him/her in a wrong way. This usually happens while playing different games with adults who take advantage of friendly moments to seduce young minds.
— If someone wants to show pornographic material, crack dirty jokes or expose them to sexual stimulation which is not age-appropriate.
— Tutors, Qari sahibs, guards, servants and all those who interact with your child on a daily basis are often found to be the culprit. They usually start with dirty jokes and check the child’s response. If the child takes interest, they move ahead.
— If someone wants to step into the washroom when they are bathing. Make clear to your child that while taking a bath the door should be properly locked and that they should never let anyone enter the washroom.
— If someone tries to give them sex education. Tell your child that only parents are supposed to educate them about sex and related issues. Always remember, a young mind is always curious to learn and experience things. Do not let anyone, even siblings, educate your child about sex.
Child sexual abuse is a cruel reality and many parents are afraid to accept it. But having an ostrich approach will get you nowhere. Make your child strong enough to fight the abusers. The media has played a significant role in making people realise the importance of this sensitive issue, but there is a lot more to be done.