Child molestation still remains a very real and prevalent threat in the 21st Century, among the many hurdles of parenting. Proactive parenting is thus a key tool for securing your children from these risks.
News about child molestation and sexual abuse feature in the newspapers and on social media every other day. It is repulsive that perpetrators are hardly strangers but are family members, neighbours, friends, teachers, and domestic staff. People one should otherwise trust to take care of one’s kids, at least for a few minutes.
I have read and heard about adults molesting even babies as young as 3 months. It makes me wonder, how depraved can these people be? What pleasure is derived from sexually assaulting a child? Is this some form of mental illness, a result of some twisted orientation or just man’s inclination to do evil?
While we eagerly look forward to that day in Nigeria that culprits are punished severely. For now, the most imminent concern is what can parents and guardians do to keep the children from falling into the claws of such debased persons.
I have gathered some helpful tips for parents to reduce these risks:
Develop strong relationship with your children
In many instances, the relationship between children and their parents doesn’t go beyond taking/giving instructions. This is one of the leading factors to not knowing what is going on with the child – good or bad.
It is imperative that parents build the kind of bond that makes children feel free to tell the parents anything without the fear of getting hushed – mummy will shout, daddy will beat me.
Sex abusers most often take advantage of a child’s silence and inability to tell others what they are going through.
Let your kids know that there should be no secret between you and them. Ask them questions without harassing them and encourage them when they talk freely and confide in you.
Have that Talk
In our culture and environment, parents commonly shy away from having sex-related conversations with their children. It is also the norm to give ill-advised explanations and threats like: “If a man touches you, you will get pregnant.” Well, life is more complicated than that now and it’s time to change that strategy.
Once children can understand instructions or at least know what you are talking about, it’s time to educate them. Begin to teach them the different parts of their bodies by name and explain to them as simply as possible. Describe the difference between appropriate and inappropriate touch. Let them know that it is not okay for just anyone to touch their private parts- parts covered by their underwear.
Instruct them on the people that can touch these parts of their bodies, for example, mummy, daddy, aunt so so or uncle so so. Explain that their caregivers in their schools should only touch their bodies appropriately during toilet trips or bath time. Or in other instances like hospital visits when you (the parent) are present and give your permission.
Believe your children
Like every other relationship, faith in each other strengthens the relationship. When kids open up to the parents, sometimes about random things that happened at home or in school, always listen. Parents may occasionally harass their kids with unsupportive questions that send the message that you don’t believe them or are not interested. You may just be pushing them back into their shells. Resist dismissing your child’s claim or rebuking them from talking about issues that bother them.
Meet the people in your children’s lives
Working parents will naturally find it difficult to visit the child’s school, lessons and places of extracurricular activities. However, strategically making out time for this could save you a great deal of future trauma. There are many benefits to getting to know the people your children interact with. It sends the message (to potential abusers or molesters) that “This parent cares and asks questions hence stay away.”
Watch out for Special Status
Discourage unnecessary closeness between your children and adults, especially adults who try to exclude your kid from others. Or those who call them ‘special’ and unduly or suspiciously favour them over others.
Teach your child to speak out
Teach kids that are old enough to respond to things they are not comfortable with. If they are uncomfortable with how people, including you, relate to them or touch them – they should speak up. Simple phrases such as, No I don’t like that,” “Don’t do that,” or “I will report to my mom” would do.
They should scream if someone touches them in ways that are inappropriate. Give them someone’s name, in particular, to scream for, especially someone that may be close by.
Watch out for changes in your child
Your child’s sudden behavioural and attitude changes may be signs that something is happening to him/her. Take note if a chatty child suddenly becomes quiet and reserved, or develops a sudden fear of darkness or being alone. If a child suddenly dislikes or resents someone they used to like or someplace they used to like visiting, be vigilant. Never dismiss these changes without inquiring.
Step in and investigate, show your child that you care and will support them in all matters. You just may be saving your child from imminent danger.
Choose caregivers thoroughly
In a country like ours, information about people is not readily available in a government database. A number of activities are not institutionalized. This drives many of us to hire domestic staff, like house boys and girls, mainly through informal means. In other words, choosing a secure and competent caregiver can be a very daunting task.
Since your kids’ lives are somewhat in their caregivers’ hands, make the extra effort to screen each caregiver. Conduct interviews that help reveal their personality type, do background checks, ask for their former places of work, and watch them carefully. Ensure to follow our thorough screening checks whenever you need to hire a new caregiver.
Of cause, parents may be unable to completely eradicate the risk as most parents have to go on with other activities. But parents can ensure the children are not easy targets.
How have you been able to protect your kids from being molested? Or if you have had a case of child molestation, please share with us how you were able to manage it.