Do you remember the time when you and I were growing up? Not only was the innocence charming, our parents were extremely trusting as well. Those were the days when it was natural to strike conversations with strange kids, pull their cheeks and offer them chocolates. When a neighbourhood ‘uncle’ was the benign fun guy who played with you along with his kids. When you were sent to outings with your friends’ parents without a second thought, and it was okay for them to pull you up for mischief. When your helps like househelps, drivers etc. were more like family and were treated so. Feel like idyllic times, don’t they? It is not to say that crime against kids or their abuse did not exist then. But was it this pervasive then or perhaps less reported?
You must have guessed why I am speaking about this today. The unfortunate incident of a murder of a 7-year-old child at school haunted me all of Saturday. The news was splashed all over the media. The brutal way in which a young life was snuffed out made me very depressed. And then discussing it with the kids was difficult but had to be done. Another spate of talks about how to be careful – in the school bus, in class, around strangers especially men. I also quickly went through in my mind what is currently being done in my kids’ school (mostly to calm my frayed nerves). The drivers of school buses are not allowed inside the school and definitely not in any areas in the classes. The school they go to is pretty strict when it comes to discipline and for once, I am not complaining.
Perverts and misfortune can strike anyone anywhere, but it is negligence that gets to me. Of course, I am not going to dissect what went right or wrong in this particular case. As a parent, I just sent a prayer to the little child’s parents. I cannot imagine how they are coping with this. No parents wishes to be in their unfortunate shoes. And then last night, we got a note from the Director of my kids’ school. The note was to reassure us that they consider our children’s safety as a top priority. It outlined the measures already in place and new ones like stronger feedback mechanisms and stricter monitoring by teachers especially early mornings and evenings to reiterate that commitment. I am happy that they addressed the panic, anger and fear that every parent felt after reading about that incident.
Just a few days back, my younger child told me about the ‘Blue Whale challenge’ that they were discussing in class. WE have talked about it at home when we read about the unfortunate suicide of a Mumbai teen. Kids being kids, there was a lot of exaggeration and fascination about the loathsome game. Apparently, it can lock your phone if you don’t follow the commands.
He also told me that one of his classmates said that he would not mind committing suicide. It would be interesting to see what was on the other side.
Even it these words were said in jest, they sent a chill through me. I told my son to tell his teacher, but he shrugged it off as just a joke. Of course, we had a very long talk about the various incidents of teens who unfortunately killed themselves over it. I told them to always use their discretion and also to talk to me when they come across something new and intimidating and also pointless. As a parent, I constantly watch them for any mood changes, distress or withdrawal. And I also scan their devices from time to time.
While my fears as a parent lead me to dissect these distressing news with children, I am glad that we talk the ugly parts without any hesitation. It helps assuage their fears and confusion too. It is not easy growing up in times of skepticism and suspicion. I think, it is also important for children to understand how much they mean to us and to reiterate that minor strife, disciplinary action or scolding should never make them question that. Keeping the doors of communication open and having time for them helps both sides.
I am sure that the circumstances in which we are raising our kids will continue to test us. I only pray that the Higher power keeps them safe.
How do you discuss sensitive topics with your children? Do you think it helps?
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