In today’s society, the safety and well being for children is our most important prerogative. It is common to see parents (especially here in the U.A.E) worried sick about leaving kids with babysitters, house maids and in nurseries. Adding fuel to the fire are the horrifying cases of abuse and neglect that seem to be rising with alarming frequency.
Statistics show that one in four girls and one in seven boys will experience sexual abuse before the age of 18.Parents of the victims often admits that they never saw it coming as the molesters are usually family members, relatives, friends or school employees. The children do not complain most of the time. Now, while we can’t really blame the parents for all that transpires, there are several simple ways to determine if the child is living in an abuse-proof environment. I recommend that each parent try one or more of these methods to determine the safety of your child without alarming or confusing them.
The younger they are the subtle the signs. I would urge parents to perform routine checks of your child (once in a week or random). Check the child’s genital area watching out for swelling, abnormal discharges or skin abnormalities. In case of rashes, refrain from panicking. Remember, they could be diaper rashes. Also, be alert when you are giving them a bath, in case the child is rash free, yet is uncomfortable with warm water on the genitals, you have to be alert.
Play Simulation Games:
Children who are very young have difficulty expressing themselves and this poses a big problem for the parents. Simulation Games help bridge this barrier to a great extent. For example, pretend to be your child and invite him to be the babysitter. Mimic the child as best as you can, urging the child to mimic the babysitter, driver, uncle or anyone else who has access when you are not around. These simulation games have brought out many a case to shocked parents.
Talk to them:
When they grow up and start communicating, talk to them. “How was your day?” is a great way to begin your conversation. What kids appreciate more is when you share an equal amount.
“Mommy had a big meeting today. A meeting is when all the important people get together in a room and talk about important things… You know, maybe we could have a meeting, you daddy and I, you could be the…”
You don’t have to share the details, but they respect and appreciate the fact that you share and feel comfortable to tell you more.
Let them know that you are safe:
Child molesters often (if not always) threaten the children by telling them that they would harm their parents or siblings. This is one of the reasons that children hide the abuse. The fear can be removed by casual and assertive reassurance that you and your spouse are safe. The child ought to subconsciously believe that the predator cannot physically harm you.
“Tommy, did I tell you about the time that Daddy saved me from that big dog near Market Road? You know one day…”
When a child is reassured that no one can hurt mommy or daddy, you can be sure that he/she will resist the threats of abusers and come to you first.
Elders make mistakes too!
When you make mistakes, apologize. “I’m sorry buddy” doesn’t cut it.
“I’m sorry honey, I forgot all about the movie. I was so busy at work that I got really late. You know daddy makes mistakes too. So what say we get some ice-cream and watch a CD before bed?”
Listen to them when they complain about elders. If they are being unreasonable, point it out logically and back up your logic with examples. By doing this we let them know that elders can make mistakes too.
Note: Don’t back them up every time they complain. They might start using this to get out of homework and other fixes. So – Investigate!
Drop in unannounced
It is also a good idea to call on the sitter unannounced to pick up your child. While this cannot be a routine, I urge you to do this now and then.
Call and ask to speak to them
When you have an established routine and cannot drop in unannounced, call you sitter / house maid and ask to speak to the child. Doing this several times a week ensures that the babysitter / maid knows that you could call / drop in any minute
Don’t over react
When your child complains, don’t go ape. Calmly listen to them and encourage them to tell the whole story. When you over react the first time, without thoroughly understanding the facts, we may draw wrong conclusions.
There have been here and around the world, many cases of drivers / maids being detained for abuse and then being released as parents realize that they were hasty and didn’t listen through.
Do not push you children to share or reward them when they do. It so happens that kids have an ocean of imagination and can make up stories to be rewarded or gain your attention.
Believe your child
Find ways to assure your child that you believe him/her. When you hear the child complain about someone, let him/her know that you believe it and will talk to that person about it. Probe and try to find out if the child was at fault. Talk to the other person even if your child is at fault. This assures the child that even if he/she is at fault; you would not only be a fair judge but a parent foremost.
Ask for help
Whenever you find overwhelmed or confused about this issue, never be afraid to ask for help. Do not hesitate. Consult a psychologist; there are also many online forums that provide support and direction.
Personally I would recommend consulting a psychologist alone for the first time. You, as a parent, need to come to terms with what’s in your mind. It takes a lot of strength and strategy to get you and your child out of this ordeal.
Statistics show that children suffer from prolonged trauma as a result of sexual abuse. They develop issues with trust, identity, intimacy and self- worth. It has also proven to lead to anti-social behavior.
In order for the child to return to normalcy, a lot of love, support, trust and guidance are needed. For this to be accomplished, the parents have to be counseled themselves and then refer the child to a specialist for intervention.
Note: Don’t be quick to judge, instead use some of the methods above to make sure that your accusations are not unfounded.
Children are resilient
Their minds and hearts are impressionable…In them we see a hope for our future, for our world and all beings in it. I know that there is no better blessing that a childhood where innocence is not torn to shreds.
It is therefore, you duty and mine to preserve our children’s modesty and innocence, for there is no better gift that we can give them, than the gift of childhood.