Terrorist attacks, riots and violence have now become a common feature on television. News channels will resort to sensationalism but think of its impact on your child. It is time for ‘sanitization’ and ‘sensitization’ instead of ‘sensationalism’. It’s time to do the following with our children-
Let’s begin with sanitization- remove any leftover fears, doubts lurking in their minds after a terrorist attack.
1. Do not allow your child to be knowingly exposed to visuals of violence. If you are watching a news telecast that is about the violence then take the time to explain in very simple language what he/she is seeing and reassure him/her that he/she is safe.
2. While explaining, do not use phrases like - ‘These are naughty boys just like you have in your class’, or, ‘See, this is why mummy tells you not to be a naughty, then you will grow up to be like them’. (believe me I have heard it being used!) All this will only worsen the trauma and damage your child’s self-esteem, self-confidence and dent his/her self-image.
3. Be very careful that you do not discuss related events in front of your child. Even if you think he/she is busy playing, they are focusing on you all the time. So be extremely careful.
4. Your children should not hear you say- ‘I am scared, what if this happens to my child tomorrow?’, or, ‘What if this happens in my child’s school?’ This will only increase the fear psychosis in your child.
5. Give a piece of paper and crayons to your child, and say. ‘Ok draw something for mummy/daddy.’ (don’t tell them what to draw) After they have finished drawing, ask them about the drawing and you will be amazed how much of the deadly events will feature in his/her drawings. This is the best way to probe out what he/she is thinking or feeling and then make him/her feel reassured.
6. Refrain completely from telling your child that he/she is a ‘scaredy cat’ or a ‘sissy’ or ‘are you a girl?’ It is alright to be afraid. Your child is stronger if he/she is able to talk about his/her fears.
7. Some children may bedwet, start getting scared of the dark, will be clingy, and refuse to leave you alone or even start nail biting. Understand, accept, and slowly reassure them.
8. Working parents can call them at home more often if they feel that the child is unduly upset. Tell them about where you are and that you are safe, this will reduce their worry.
Let’s use this time now to sensitize ourselves and our children for the future.
Here are some ways to sensitize children-
1. Violence has become an accepted way of life for our children, they are exposed to it all the time, and hence it is imperative that parents and schools do not condone any kind of violence or violent activities. When your child watches glorified violence with you (in a blockbuster movie) he understands that violence makes my parents happy, and so he will always resort to violence to solve any situation in life. Instead teach him conflict resolution.
2. Do not teach children to ‘hit back’. When children are taught this at a very young age, they use ‘hit back’ for all their life’s frustrations- most terrorists are hitting back at society.
3. Do not gift guns to your child; a child idolizes his/her parents and when he/she receives a gun as a gift from them, he/she is somewhere getting a message that guns are fun and this is the first step towards violence acceptance.
4. Many parents ask – ‘Our kids say that the police also use guns’, so we gift our children guns so that they idolize the police and the army. This is incorrect, guns are unsafe and should NOT be given to children, not even for Diwali or Holi or otherwise. And parents must become strong and tell them that the police and the army first has to undergo a long process of training, then they get their gun license and are using it, just like you cannot drive a car and we can.
Kids have gone through a lot of trauma after the recent horrific incidents in some schools and also the constant news of rape and child abuse is negatively impacting our children. Let us not ignore the anxieties that may be plaguing our young children as they see images or hear about the tragedy. Let us keep our children safe and secure in the knowledge that we are there for them.
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