The world our children are inheriting is not the same that was handed down to us. To make it worse, along come incidents like the recent episode where the unspeakable happened to a little girl in her school and the heinous crime allegedly was committed by a school employee. As we wait for justice to prevail, we also confront lot of questions and situations that make us squirm.
We question humanity, look for answers and find none. Eventually we make peace with it, shrug it away and hope we are never in those shoes. But if wishes were horses, beggars would ride. Burying our head in the sand is not going to make it go away.
Our biggest concern is that we may end up scaring them if we bring such issues up. That is a valid concern but not discussing the uncomfortable stuff will just make it worse. They may or may not listen to us but beware that they watch us…. All the time. The way we react to a certain situation, they imbibe that. Use this to your advantage. If we discuss mishaps like kidnapping and rape in a manner as we would have discussed road safety, they ease up. Avoid the brouhaha and the drama. It has never done anyone much good. Let them interrupt you and ask questions. Answer them in all honesty.
Discuss scenarios and go through the possibilities. Make your child go through certain basic skills till they become a second nature.
Smell the fishy stuff. Anything and I mean absolutely anything that is remotely dubious needs to be taken seriously. It may raise some false alarms but it’s worth the trouble. Speak to the kids about suspicious stuff. It could be a stranger whose been spotted way too often in the vicinity. It could be someone offering candy or asking for directions. It could be someone who pretends to have ‘bad’ news. It could be someone trying to act bossy and corner the child. What also needs to be remembered, that often it is not the strangers who lure them with candy but people they are accustomed to getting candies from. Think about the possibilities and talk. Talk, talk and then listen. Listen when your children talk and listen more if they do not. Often when kids go through a bad patch and think they cannot rely upon anyone, they often retreat in a shell. Watch out for these signs too. Seek professional help if you feel you are falling short. There is no shame in letting others do a job they are trained at.
Often having a secret code helps.In many of the situations mentioned above, a secret code can come in handy. As silly as it may sound, believe me it works. It grabs their attention and they feel empowered. It puts the potential offender off track and gives the kid time to run.
Make Some Noise.If something untoward happens, let your kids know it’s okay to shriek, punch, pummel, make a scene and attract attention. Any unwanted attention is not welcome for an offender.
Let them develop their intuition.We all are naturally intuitive. Some of us harness that power while others bury it beneath layers of logic. Let your child’s intuition flower. They will be able to smell trouble. Let them. Trust them.
Safe house, safe people. We all have someone we can trust that could be family or friends. Surround your kids with such people who have positive impact on them. Let them have a feeling of safety and warmth. Often children turn to such people because they seem approachable. Do not hold it against them if they do not choose to confide in you. So long as they are talking, be grateful. If you are unable to find such confidantes and there is a situation that may need one, look outward. Counselling is way more effective than it seems.
Kids look up to us. Let’s not disappoint them. Let’s empower them as best as we can. They need to know that they are loved and trusted whatever the situation be. All of this cannot be achieved in a hurry. It is a sustained effort. An environment needs to be created. We need to be mindful of our words and our actions.
Respect your children. Let them stand up for themselves, let them fumble. Its ok to make mistakes on the way. There will be moments that may embarrass us, put us in a spot but that should not deter us from our goal. Resist stepping in or speaking for them. It can deprive your kids of that one chance to develop their self-confidence.
Instead, look out for chances where they can put their learnt skills in action and can practice a strong body language and a firm voice. This may go a long way to serve its purpose if and God forbid when an unfortunate situation comes where they may actually have to defend themselves.