Empower your child with knowledge on ABUSE

Lily, a student of class 3, was at her school gate, waiting for her mom to pick her up. She saw a boy get bullied by other boys in his class. His spectacles, bicycle and his bag were thrown on the road, his books were scattered, his favourite water bottle was broken and now those boys were saying some bad words to him. Lily immediately went to her teacher and told her about the situation. The boy was saved. He was Brent, a student of class 8. When Brent asked Lily about how she knew if he was being bullied, she told him, “All that I saw seemed like bullying. My Mama told me to find help if I witness something like it and report it immediately.” Why could Brent not report and ask for help? Why did Brent tolerate it for so long? This endless sea of questions has just one answer- Lily’s parents educated Lily about abuse and made her strong and bold. Brent’s parents did not do so, which resulted in their child suffering abuse silently for a long time.

Abuse is an intentional behaviour/action that harms another person physically, emotionally or mentally, in this case children are the victims.

Shocking is that every ten seconds a report of child abuse is made, 4 in 10 children die every day because of child abuse. There are concrete reasons why you need to talk to your child about abuse right now!

Educate your child about forms of abuse they must have knowledge about. Have these “uncomfortable” conversations with your child once in a while as they grow up. Elaborate more on details with every conversation. Answer their questions patiently with appropriate words, this builds trust and confidence in them. Create a safe and open environment at home. These conversations intend to empower them with knowledge and not scare them.

There is no right time to introduce this concept to your child, but an ideal time could be when your child is in the age group 5 to 6 years. So, here are some tips on how do you talk to your child. Mutually decide with your child a suitable time for a serious conversation so they’ll be mentally prepared and this will get them to focus on the talk. You too get comfortable about the topic.

Types of Interpersonal Abuse you must discuss with your child:

Interpersonal violence/abuse is when a person is physically/emotionally/mentally harmed by another person. Abusers can be anywhere, they could be strangers, friends or within families! Children can get abused at known places (aunt’s house, schools, friend’s house, school bus, own peer group) or at unknown places (garden, shopping centres).

1. Physical – Behaviour/actions that cause harm to the body is physical abuse. Beating, pushing, kicking are all examples of physical abuse. It is frequent in schools and playground. Parents are advised to not leave their child alone on unknown places like a playground. (Tip – you must educate your children that they themselves must refrain from beating or pushing their friends and must be aware if they undergo the same. Educate your teenage children that no-body can abuse them by forcing them to consume alcohol or other any substances).

2. Sexual – This usually happens with minor children, i.e. below 12 years. Talk to your children about the private parts- lips, chest, genitals and butt. It is only parents and caregivers who can touch them there. If doctors are checking on children, it is advised that they do so in the presence of parents/caregivers. Fondling i.e. cuddling, hugging, caressing, kissing, forcing a child to watch porn, speaking inappropriately to the child, any other sexual activities that can hamper the child mentally, emotionally, or physically are all instances of sexual abuse. It can be as Suttle as just watching the minor, even without the minor knowing about it, without any touch, any harm! This is a kind of non-contact abuse. Educate your children that if experience any kind of uncomfortable touch they must say a loud NO, run away from the place and immediately inform a trusted adult.

3. Verbal – Uttering of words that insult, demean or threaten a person is a verbal abuse. Not giving someone a chance to speak, blaming a person without evidence and speaking with sarcasm is also verbal abuse. Educate your children to not only themselves be aware of their own behaviour, but also be observant of other people’s behaviour towards them. (Tip- Be mindful when you are talking around children, they learn more from observing.

4. Emotional – If an action/behaviour brings down another person’s self-esteem, it’s called emotional abuse. Cornering a person, outrightly rejecting someone’s thoughts, ideas and opinions are some instances of emotional abuse. Educate your children if they undergo this abuse during group/project activity. (Tip-When you get angry and want to lash out on your child, hold your breath for 10 seconds and imagine yourself being the one to listen to those words. Try to understand if it’s your child who made a mistake or are they just a convenient target for you to take your frustration on).

5. Financial/Economic – By force, if someone is controlling others’ money or precious possessions, they are engaging in financial abuse. (Tip – Explain to your older children the importance of sharing costs whenever they go for movies or sports matches).

6. Technological – Using technology or technological platforms to engage in abusive behaviour is technological abuse. Cyberbullying, sending abusive emails, doxing, trolling are all instances of technological abuse. Educate your teenage children to be very careful on various social media platforms.

Make your child understand that they immediately need to report to trusted adults. Tell your kids that they are strong and capable, furthermore they can always count on you to keep them safe. These discussions will be beneficial to your child’s well-being!

Tips for parents to have an effective conversation-

1. Ask your child about what they know. Listen to them and try to understand their sources of information and note down if there are any triggers in the conversation.
2. Talk to your child about good and bad touches.
3. Discuss and elaborate on details more with time. Start with introducing it, and next time elaborate on the details. As children grow, talk to them and listen, their perspectives and ideas change. They experience/witness more than we assume.
4. You can also teach your child some safety rules. Tell them they need to say “No”.
5. Remind them that they are never at fault if at all something happens.
6. Remember you have to make your kids aware, not scared.

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