To keep a child safe

I am a helicopter mum. A paranoid mum some might say, but I worry. I worry about a million things when it comes to daughter.

A lot of times, I am asked why I read books related to child abuse, when they are so painful. Yes, they are painful, they are horrific, and they affect me really badly. But most importantly it tells me that I have the responsibility to ensure that daughter is kept as safe as possible. They remind me that abuse of all sorts happen in environments of all sorts. Books like these jolt me out of complacency. They make me worry, and they make me take action to ensure that I do what I can to keep daughter safe.

It used to worry me that so many Indian parents that I know, refuse to accept that things like this happen in India. They believe that it is a Western thing, something that doesn’t happen in our culture.

Husband and I are very, very careful in this regard. Daughter knows about the good touch/bad touch, and we keep asking and reminding her every so often. Just because you never know. In India, a lot of people consider me, too protective. I don’t lose sight of her in functions, I ensure that one of us is keeping an eye on her, we don’t allow people to take her ‘to the bazaar, just like that’. We insist on going with her. It’s not about not trusting one person – it’s about not setting a pattern. I would rather be safe than sorry.

She did go out for a sleep over once, but now, I feel worried – I feel I shouldn’t have sent her – she was fine – but what if she weren’t? What if something had happened. I don’t know. It worries me and scares me.

I know I can’t control everything, but at the very least, I can try and talk to daughter, ensure that we have a clear communication going on about everything, and educate her to protect herself, be confident and be in a position to stop any behaviour. And know that we are there to help her in any situation.

As my Dad says, ‘Hope for the best, prepare for the worst’. That is all that we can do, isn’t it?

And hopefully after yesterday’s episode on Child Sexual Abuse on Satyamev Jayate, a lot of parents out there, would too.

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46 thoughts on “To keep a child safe

  1. Smitha.. This is exactly my point , it does not happen in india they all say that and look at the numbers 53% and this is those who came out , plenty more who have not spoken out.

    Absolutely. The true figures might be much higher – because a lot of people would not be comfortable admitting to it. Because a lot of children worry that theu might have done something wrong, which made an adult behave like that.

    This is what makes me so angry we spend so much time on pathetic issues, people are more worried on proving whose fault it is , is it a man , is it society , is it that is it this .. they dont spend that time on fixing a problem ..

    A society faces a lot of issues. Who is to say one is more important than another? The issues that affect us, we should talk about, the issues that are close to our heart, we will talk about, wouldn’t we? We can’t expect everybody to say the same things, or to be vocal about the same things. And how do we know about what time another person does fixing which problem? There might be silent people doing a lot of good, you know..

    I can understand what you are thinking and the fears .. but we cant get paranoid too, that will also spoil our kids childhood, we just need to make sure we talk to our child .. the child should have enough confidence in us that even if they are wrong we will stand by them .. it is another thing that afterwards they wil have to hear it that they were wrong … (if you know what i mean)

    Definitely. I agree. What is regular for me – might be paranoid for another. For instance, this morning, my friend was telling me how in India, she goes out with her 6 year old, and stays in the play area while she is playing. Some consider that being paranoid – but it gives my friend her peace of mind.. Does it affect her daughter – I don’t think so.

    but its a scary world out there, I cant tell you what all i have experienced in my few years of working here …
    It is a scary world – which is why we, as parents, need to be aware, and ensure that we do the best by our children

  2. I think there were a lot of surprises in yesterday’s episode for Indian parents like :
    1. 52% of Indian chidren are sexually abused. That is half the children of the country.
    2. 53% of these are boys.
    I like the way Aamir has picked up this hammer and he is nailing each and everyone of us every Sunday. I feel numb after every episode. Takes me almost half a day to come back to my senses. “To see” is very different from “to know”.

    • I’ve read about the figures before, and the stats about boys being abused as well. A know some men who have been abused as children – so it’s not exactly new for me – but seeing it, as you said, makes a lot of difference. We recorded it and watched it at night, and that is a bad time to watch something like this – it affects you so much.. Numb is correct.

      But the good thing is that it shakes one out of our complacency. Hopefully, our generation will be more geared up towards our children’s safety – we owe our children a happy childhood, at the very least.

  3. I have a couple of frenz who have daughters and they are very protective about them. They ask hazaar questions when they go out. I used to get irritated with them and question their controlling ways but now I have realised that they are being safe and trying to protect their kids because the world out there is not as safe as we want it to be. As you it is better to be safe!!!
    It is the need of hour to be cautious and to make your kids alert about what can happen! It is the need to educate them!

    • Daughters or sons – they are equally vulnerable. And the best we can do is be aware, and ensure that our children are aware of what to do in case something goes wrong.

      • That I totally agree with. If we can not save them nobody else can and if we cannot prepare them for the wost nobody else can.

  4. I am like you. I worry about my daughter too and I agree… Better be safe than sorry. Its a bad bad world in some sense. We need to be very cautious about our kids.

  5. I so agree with you Smitha. It’s a scary world and even before having kids I’m scared to death thinking what all can happen to a child. And it doesn’t stop there, there is harassment at work, on road, in college. Its everywhere.

    • Yes, the harrassment everywhere else is bad too, but atleast you are older by then..We are in a position to handle it better. Whereas, for a child having to face sexual abuse is so sad! Not having a clue what’s happening to you, not knowing how to stop it – I can’t even imagine it, to be honest.

  6. This does not sound like paranoia to me. This sounds sensible. But then, we all have our own definitions. I wonder what I will when I have a child. The responsibility of keeping the child safe is so scary.

    • Yes, we all have our own definitions, and our own boundaries. What seems sensible to me and you, might be excessive for others..I guess, what we can do is take informed decisions, understand the extent of the issue, and do what we feel is right for our child..

  7. I understand what you mean. I have seen a lot of people dismiss stuff like this with ‘This does not happen in our culture’, but I think otherwise. You are not paranoid, I feel you are just trying to be a good parent. Again, this is one thing that scares me – for my future kids.

    I haven’t watched Satyameva Jayate, but have heard loads of good things about it. Want to watch the show sometime. Maybe I will catch up with it this weekend.

    • It’s a very good programme. It brings to our living rooms issues that a lot of us might even refuse to acknowledge. While things won’t change in a jiffy, I think this is a good step forward. At the very least, people will emerge more aware.

  8. I totaly agree..Better be safe than sorry.. There was a case in london where the 1 month old baby boy was raped. so irrespective of age or gender, it can happen. We as parents should be responsible and only if we are aware of the world can we make our children aware. So i dont think there is anything wrong in reading such articles. It is this kind of an impact that made me write – http://zradar.wordpress.com/2011/11/03/world-is-scary-aint-it/
    “My children are the most precious gift, I have had till now”,Amma repeats all the time. After being a mother all of us feel the same. I even imagine certain situations that are likely to happen in future and how i would react to it so that children wouldnt be hurt, and i could deal it the appropriate way..So in the process of becoming better parents we do get paranoid. Only thing is children shouldnt misunderstand our proctective feeling and started rebellism. the only option is talk things out….Am sure you are already doing that.Good luck!!

    • Will check out your post, zradar.

      ‘ Only thing is children shouldnt misunderstand our proctective feeling and started rebellism. the only option is talk things out’ – Yes, that is important. I make it a point to explain to daughter why something is not allowed. I reason with her, and to her credit, she accepts reasons. Hopefully she will understand that the measures we take are for her safety and not to restrain her in any way.

  9. Your dad is absolutely right. Hope for the best and prepare for the worst. Parents indeed have more perversion to deal with today while safeguarding their children and I don’t envy them one bit. So many young people are even opting out of parenthood for this reason and the responsibility and tension it entails. You are not paranoid — just cautious and the way to be.

    • I think our generation has become more aware, thanks to media and exposure. These issues existed earlier as well. And hopefully with the increased awareness, even if it is tougher on us, parents, it will ensure that fewer cases of child sexual abuse happens – that is what is important, isn’t it?

  10. You know Smits, the biggest mistake we do as Indian parents is when we go in that denial mode, we feel that such terrible things wont happen to our kids, when the fact is no one, absolutely no one is safe. As parents what we can do is be cautious, ensure our kids are well-aware of their own body, their surroundings, make open communication with them a practice, and most importantly assure and reassure them that we will always be there for them come what may.
    I fully agree with Uncle and even apply the principle too- hope for the best, prepare for the worst. thats the least we can do!

    ‘we feel that such terrible things wont happen to our kids, when the fact is no one, absolutely no one is safe.’ – True, Deeps. That is so true. We would be silly if we thought that such things happened only to ‘other people’.

    Yesterday’s episode again was an eye-opener. I particularly loved the workshop that AK conducted, in fact R & I watched the particular segment with Namnam all the while re-explaining to her about what he was saying. Like you and N, even we keep telling Namnu about the good touch and bad touch, about the need of keeping herself safe, screaming/raising alarm when in danger, etc. So the workshop was kind of a reiteration for her which she hopefully understood well.

    We did not watch it with Kunju – but I keep saying these things to her – so she does know about good touch/bad touch, trusted adult, etc etc..

    This kind of education and awareness is so needed in our country, Smits, among adults and kids alike and I am so glad that Aamir Khan and his team have taken it upon themselves to bring such awareness to the forefront by way of this show.
    I totally agree! Our adults need it more – because they are the ones that can make a difference. Unless adults understand that this sort of things happen, and that they need to talk to their children, be receptive to what they kids might be saying, watch out for signs of abuse, even if the child does not say anything… Educating the adults is the most important thing. Hopefully this programme will make a difference, given its reach.

  11. At the same time Smitha, I am glad you let her go for a sleep over. I feel when we show our involvement and concern and awareness and also when a child knows about CSA (age appropriate) and everybody else knows that we both are aware and alert and wouldn’t keep silent – they wouldn’t dare. That’s the biggest deterrent for abusers.

    • I agree, IHM. Even on the show, it was clear how abusers plan and attack. So they are (hopefully) less likely to attack a child who seems confident and likely to resist and protest aloud. It still worries me – but I feel that getting daughter aware of CSA(age appropriate) definitely equips her to protect herself better.

  12. the best part about Satyamev jayate is they aer speaking about topics that for long in India were shied away from… thankfully with such a big star endorsing it I hope it reaches the masses and people open up and dont run away from vices that exist !

  13. Agreed with whatever you said..

    I don’t care if people label me as paranoid or an obsessive mom. The only thing I care about is my daughter’s safety. I don’t leave her alone anywhere. I know at some point of time I have to let her go.. bit by bit. But as a parent we have to make sure that they know how to handle such situations (Hope that never happens to any child)..

    • But as a parent we have to make sure that they know how to handle such situations (Hope that never happens to any child).. True – Absolutely!

  14. you are right.. i think this a worry going on in every mothers head when you leave them with someone else.. i too get worried when my daughter goes to my neighbors house, or some stranger tries to kiss her or hold her in trains as she is small and bubbly kid..

    //As my Dad says, โ€˜Hope for the best, prepare for the worstโ€™. That is all that we can do, isnโ€™t it?// is true.. i completely agree with your dad..

    • You know, I try to discourage strangers kissing daughter and stuff like that – because it makes me uncomfortable, and because I feel it sends mixed signals to the child. On one side we say, don’t talk to strangers, and then if some general person is allowed to kiss her- it is confusing, isn’t it?

      • yes i agree with you.. now that my daughter is only 11months old, she cant understand anything and explain me anything.. just praying that she develops this communicating skill and tell some everything in future. i should inculcate the quality.

  15. While I totally understand your paranoia and appreciate that you are so careful about your daughter…. may I ask…
    How much is really too much? Where do you draw the fine line?

    Where do you draw the line – That’s the thing you see. Each of us will have our own comfort zones. And we will have to learn as we grow as parents – I think.

    To illustrate this, I can tell you one example. I was in my final year of college…about to turn 20. We were divided into groups for a certain project, and my team decided to gather at the house of one of the team members for a sleep-over. There were 6 of us including the girl whose house we were staying over.

    All was well till the clock chimed around 11pm. My dad called up and told me that he was sending the car. He asked me to return since it was getting late. No matter how much I pushed and prodded…and much to my embarrassment since the rest of the girls were allowed to stay on (with permission from respective parents of course), my dad simply would not budge. Angry, embarrassed and my pride hurt, I returned, silent tears streaming from my cheeks.

    To this day I know my dad meant well. He was being protective. But I felt he was over doing it, since the point was he did not want me to stay over in a house that had other males (my team-mates brother and father).

    I can understand your frustration and your Dad’s intentions. I think as parents, we will have to let go – all we can really do is try and equip our child well, so that she knows how to handle things if incase something wrong happens. I studied away from home after 18 – I am sure it must have been tough on my parents -but you have to do it, and hope that your child is well equipped to handle whatever is thrown at her.

    While I do not in any way mention that your attitude is the same….nope, far from it, since your daughter is much younger and your concern is totally understandable …. my only point was that it is important to know where to draw the line. Since that will define whether one is spoiling the childhood and teenage memories. Bik has mentioned this point as well….in not so many words. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Yes, definitely -going over board is not right. Also, as the child grows older, I think we have to learn to trust them and their capabilities. Trust to let them do certain things, and try and ensure that they trust you enough to confide in you their deepest fears. It is getting that balance right, that is the toughest part – and one that will challenge us for a long time to come.

  16. No ned to mention that we sail in same boat.. I am also more like you when it comes to daughter.. I talk to her about good/bad touch constantly whether she listens or not.. better safe to be sorry is my motto too.. hugs Smitha.. btw I loved the article you have mentioned in another post.. that’s the way I wish to bring up Adi with good values..

    • Guess we are quite similar in our approach to our daughters ๐Ÿ™‚ Lets hope our daughters are always happy and cheerful, the way they are today.
      Hugs, Ani!!

    • That’s what I believe in – but who knows, it might well backfire on me if Poohi hates it all, eventually.. you know. But I can only do my best…

  17. Pingback: An email: Satyamev Jayate touched a deep wound. After almost 30 years I broke the silence. | The Life and Times of an Indian Homemaker

  18. i am a teenager myself so the workshop of Satyamev Jayate helped me a lot. Can someone suggest some ways in which we can held similar workshops,plays,etc. in small towns and villages to help create awareness there?

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