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?

conversations with kids

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.

talk children

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?

Pinnable Pic courtesy Shutterstock

36 Thoughts on “Conversations with Kids on Unsavoury Topics

  1. I cannot imagine what that child’s parents must be feeling. if school aren’t safe what will we as parents do? Oh I know that dread you felt. Words said the jest are so very scary. I have been talking to the children regularly about he Blue Whale Challenge and how they should never ever give out personal details on the Net.
    Times really have changed. It’s a pity we have to tell our children to be wary all the time – of strangers, or house help of friend’s parents – of every one they meet. Sad, it is. Yet unavoidable.

    • True, sad but unavoidable. What riles me is how irresponsible the school was. And in small measures, we must also start checking out processes in our kids’ schools. We need to see if their safety is safeguarded at school.

  2. I liked what you brought about on making children understand how much they mean to us. This surely brings a lot of things into perspective. Discussing in a way they would understand, encouraging interaction and putting forth their questions. Parenting may seem to be a challenge in comparison to what it was years back. But its an ongoing process and with care, we could bring about a positive atmosphere to discuss sensitive issues and matters of utmost concern too,

  3. The recent incident was very distressing indeed Rachna, and so true when you say we grew up in different times. Even if it may be just that we and our parents were just blissfully unaware.

    What you have described about the way you discussed with your boys seems like the best approach that we can have as parents – a frank discussion with the idea
    that they’ll know to reach out to us when needed. Hugs to you ❤️

    • Yes, perhaps they were blissfully unaware. Compared to them, we are super hyper and paranoid. Thanks Aparna for your support. I often struggle when I read such incidents and then just talking to the kids and sharing our fears, vulnerability and opinions seems to be the right thing to do. This parenting thing is so tough and overwhelming at times.

  4. This is so scary, Rachna. Kids should be allowed to be kids and not disturbed but there is no option. Dialogue with them is must and as parents, we have to be so very careful. It worries me what have we come to as a society that we cannot even protect our kids. I cannot even imagine the pain.

  5. It’s real tough time to be a kid in today’s times where such incidents make you doubt everyone be it a domestic help or a school caretaker. The killing of this child shocked and made me very angry. Good that you observe the kids at home and parents do have a tougher job to do. Gone are the days when we could be trusted with a stranger.

    • So agree with you, Vishal. The incident was really disturbing. As a parent, I am on my toes all the time and also constantly worried for the safety of my kids.

  6. God! That incident is scary and heart-wrenching!
    Your first paragraph feels like a pleasant, fresh air. Reminds me of good old days when our life was much easier and safer. Things have changed. You just can’t relax. Parenting is tough, and these things intensify the fear and anxiety. A relaxed, thoughtful conversation is really important.

  7. My son is 9 and has very limited access to gadgets. I have spoken to him about Blue Whale and was surprised that he knew many details about it from his friends. He said it was silly to die for a game. Haven’t had the heart to discuss the Delhi case with him yet.
    We need to talk with them, no matter how tough it is. They should know we are open to conversation, always.

    • You are absolutely right, Varsh. Even very young kids discuss these topics with their peers hence I think giving them the right details is quite important. We have to keep sharing our thoughts and hear theirs. Only then will they feel confident enough to share with us in case of any issues.

  8. It is extremely scary to know that kids are not safe at their school where they spend majority of the time. We need to talk to our kids about the bad news too, otherwise how can we prepare them?
    About today’s time being tougher than ours, I think there were such cases in our times too, but they did not get reported as they do now. In my school too there were a few incidents which only we kids knew, not even our parents. How many such incidents could have been there without others knowledge? I think we are bolder now to get our stories out to the public. But today or yesterday, the pain of dealing with these crimes is the same.

    • Yes, Vinitha, you are probably right. There must be such incidents happening back then but somehow they never came to the fore. And our parents were not as cautious as we are today. The pain of dealing with crimes is definitely the same.

  9. That news as well as the murder of the journalist last week both upset me very deeply. I couldn’t function and stayed off social media on Saturday as well as muted hash tags. As a witness to a suicide last August, news of gruesome deaths act as a huge trigger for my anxiety. So I wait until I am able to read about it without it affecting me badly.

    As for the blue whale challenge, they’ve spoken about it at Gy’s school too. While she understands that suicide is not a joke, there are many kids who joke about it! I had to urge her to speak to the counsellor discreetly if she came across kids joking about it.

    Gy and I as well as my husband are pretty open at home. We discuss most things quite comfortably. She’s quite mature in the way she handles things too. I haven’t spoken yet about this incident because her exams are on, at the moment. But we will talk about it soon. I so wish we didn’t have to. And as much as I don’t want to do it, I think of a childhood that was far simpler, far safer than the one our kids have today.

    • Couldn’t agree more with all your thoughts, Shailaja. I wish their childhoods were safer and we did not need to have such discussions. As for staying away from social media with such news, I agree too. Sometimes, people become so vicious in putting across their views, they totally sideline the tragedy of someone’s death. It is just so dismaying.

  10. I agree, communication always helps, even though the topic on hand is difficult & frankly scary.

    I read about the unfortunate incident too, and I couldn’t sleep well that night. I can’t even imagine what it must be like for those parents.

    But what can we really do? Except include them in our prayers, re-evaluate the safety arrangements around our kids, and hope/pray that the almighty keeps them safe.

    • So many of these tragedies are just due to being in the wrong place at the wrong time. In this incident, it is flawed school policy that caused the little boy’s death. All we can do is just talk with our kids and try to keep them as safe as possible. Also, a lot of schools are waking up to beef their security measures and relooking into their policies.

  11. We live in a reality which is stranger than fiction. Keep communication open and not another session of instructions and accusations and threats. Let the kids know it is ok to make mistakes and seek help from parents first. Rachna, this post is saying all I want to say.

  12. These things existed before. I don’t have any friend who hasn’t had an issue with a strange, disgusting man. We never spoke to our parents about it. Nor we had social media to bring us awareness. I truly believe technology and openness is for our good, it depends how we use it.
    I am not a parent, still, I would advice every parent to keep talking to your children. No matter how much they hate you when you do. We were that age, we know rebellion is not new and doesn’t make you hate your parents in the long run 🙂

    • I know, Nisha. But so many rapes of little kids. At least, I did not know any such incidents when I was growing up. Yes, groping was common and we all safeguarded ourselves against it. Also technology gives access to objectionable content on the go. I often see drivers in my gated community gathered in a place watching stuff on mobiles. You can imagine what. Even kids do that away from their homes. These kind of things also make situations worse.

  13. The saddest part is no matter how much we talk to kids about what’s happening around, something new will come in soon.

  14. God! That recent incident was truly shocking and disturbing. And so is the Blue Whale Challenge. Communicating openly with kids is the key. As parents, we need to give them an environment, where they can talk freely with us about anything and of course, we need to be vigilant and read between the lines too.

  15. Such horrifying incidents i must say…I heart feels sad for them…I can completely relate to what you pointed out. I been a victim of such incident and i can tell you for sure that they existed even before but just didn’t see the light. I still remember the days when my parents felt their failed me as they were not able to protect me. It was not their fault but still they feel that. Role of parents has been very important then and not less but even more imp now!

    • Oh, I am so sorry to hear that you were a victim and could not share it with your parents. That must have been terrible. I agree, role of parents is really crucial. Thanks for dropping by.

  16. Absolutely. Encourage them to talk about their fears, what’s troubling them. We need to take out time every day to talk to our children and listen to them.

  17. I am dealing with this right now! It can be tough to explain, but it’s better to keep them informed and equipped with knowledge of what is to be done.

  18. Yogi Saraswat on September 15, 2017 at 1:17 pm said:

    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. Today’s Kids are more sensitive and yes they want to do something very thrill , but its become our duty as parents that we should teach them all the postive & negative things of every events of the life very openly .

  19. That news was just so horrible. It’s dangerous times we live in indeed. Who can a child trust ? Given the times, talking to children is definitely the need of the hour. Of course, I do wish we didn’t have to if the environment hadnt been like this.

  20. I could not bring myself to read the details about that poor boy’s assault and murder but I still felt rage as to how callous the school authorities have been. I’m glad you decided to speak about the incident and its aftermath with your boys and not try to hide it from them, as many parents do. I know they do so to shield their kids from the evils of this world, but unfortunately, kids are all too exposed to news anyway. My older kid plays online video games and is therefore often exposed to racism and sexism amongst the people he plays with. We talk about it and I encourage him to form his own opinion about why some people talk so disrespectfully about someone else. It’s so easy to do so nowadays since everyone has this garb of anonymity online.

Do not leave without commenting. I love a good conversation :).

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