How Safe Are Our Children?
This present house recently organized a women’s breakfast session with a wonderful spread of breakfast provided by Kemabom Catering. The theme of the session was Our Children, How Safe are they. We were addressed by Mrs Christianah Akindolie founder of the Christinah Fate Foundation (CFF). A foundation set up to To protect children from child abuse by enlightening children, parents and guardians on preventive measures through seminars, talk shows, church programmes, publications, stage plays and the multimedia and Bisola Obasanya, Head teacher, Infant School at Meadow Hall.
So much was talked about but the main outcome of the session from the mothers that attended, was indeed that we were left thinking “How Safe Are our Children” there are so many areas where we parents need to be more careful and focus on protecting our children. It is our job to do this and while yes we cannot always be there it is imperative that we are aware (and not pretend) of the dangers our children face. CFF recommends steps to increase awareness which are PREVENT – EDUCATE – PROTECT.
She admonished parents for being unnecessarily careless. The common refrain from all the children Mrs. Akindole has talked to, trained, counseled and come across who have been abused (there are several grades of abuse) is the same thing “My parents do not know”.
FACT: Statistics show that 70% of abusers are family friends! your family friends consists of all the people who you expose your children to and these include everyone from nanny’s, drivers, gate men, lesson teachers, cooks, to uncles, aunties, extended family who live with the family, family friends etc.
A Scenario: Typical Exposure to “family friends” – note the number of people who “handle” your children in a day
Child is woken up by the nanny, showered, dressed and fed by the nanny.
Child is transported to school by the nanny and driver.
Child is picked up in the afternoon by nanny and driver and returned home (or taken to after school activities)
Child is at home playing with the nanny, perhaps you have a gate man, is there a gardener, wash man who also have some work to do in the house or compound? Your child (children) are exposed to these people too.
Child then has some extra lessons perhaps and is tucked away in a corner of the house with his or her lesson teacher to be able to concentrate
During all this time between school (if a school aged child) and going to bed the child is allowed to watch as much television as desired, what channels are the children watching? Who is monitoring this and ensuring they are watching age appropriate shows?
Come bedtime and the child is showered, fed and tucked into bed by the nanny. All meals are prepared and supervised by the nanny/cook.
Parent you get home at night and if you are lucky there is some part of this cycle that you are responsible for or able to supervise. If you are at home with the children what amount of this cycle are you directly supervising or doing yourself??
I hope it is clear here how much time your child (or children) spends with these “strangers”. Yes strangers because these are people brought into your home who are caring for your children. Of course this is not to suggest one should not have assistance but parents we must be aware.
Is your nanny the one updating you about your child’s moods? How he or she was feeling? Whether or not he or she ate well that day? Coming down with a cold?
So what can we do? We as parents can PREVENT – EDUCATE – PROTECT
PREVENT – this largely comes form supervision, caring for your child yourself as much as possible, don’t leave children alone with people you cannot trust. There are some simple ways to do this for example if you are a working mother you can re-arrange your day such that you are able to give your child a bath yourself, you will be able to notice if your child has some strange behaviors, for example is the child reluctant for you to bathe them or acts unnecessarily aware of his or her body when you are giving them a bath. This is a good sign that some inappropriate behavior might be happening.
Television, how many of you who have DSTV have parental control turned on? You should lock your channels to ensure that your children only watch the channels you approve of. Test them and you will be surprised how many of your kids know the adverts on tv, can point out all the characters in adult soap operas. Are you guilty of letting you children watch music videos and movies geared towards adults? Yes your children are watching African Magic (perhaps even with you) and they are picking up all these lessons.
Security – Internet use, as she put it “leaving your child free to use the internet without supervision is like leaving your child in the middle of Udumota market unprotected”. Educate yourselves on internet usage, find ways to block certain websites, lock the wireless in your house, don’t leave children alone to browse the internet on the pc’s, handhelds, ipads unsupervised. Are your staff using the internet? Some nannies are on Facebook you must think about the implications of this. Be comfortable that your child’s school is strict with supervision and there are controls in place, there have been reports of swimming instructors touching children inappropriately.
EDUCATE – how many parents have told their children clearly what is considered inappropriate behavior and touching? It doesn’t matter who the person is there is no excuse for anyone to touch you in certain places. Label the parts of the body with their correct names, let your child know their private parts and that no one is allowed to touch them there. Do not refer to his penis as monkey tail, don’t refer to her vagina as a flower..there was a sad recount of a child who was telling her mum that the driver was having sexual intercourse with her and because she was referring to it as monkey tail and flower (which by the way her mum had used to code the parts) her mum didn’t know what she was talking about!!! If your child is educated properly you are empowering them to take care of themselves and being able to speak out!
Talk about sex with your children, when should you introduce the topic of sex? From when your child can say mummy/daddy! Your child will learn about sex EARLY that is the one thing that is for certain in these times and so it is better that he or she learns from you rather than from school, friends or other predators. A child who asked her mum where babies come from was told to shut up, she asked her dad who also gave an equally harsh response, still curios she went on to ask the gate-man who said he had the answer for her…he offered to show her where babies come from and there went her innocence.
PROTECT – You must protect your children, there is no other way around it. It is your job! You must protect your children. Don’t be careless with them and leave them in the wrong hands. Some parents can be too lenient with their kids and have the impression that your child is safe with a family friend, cousin, caregiver etc?
If a child has his or hers sexuality awakened early it can lead to lingering issues in his or life as an adult, if a child is abused it is more likely he or she will also abuse a child. The child carries the memories into adulthood and can have extreme sexual reactions, either overly sexual or frigid, self-confidence issues, trust issues, yo-yoing emotions. Some children say that they don’t want to get married because of their past experiences, or men who do not trust women because of what they recall their nanny’s doing to them as boys. Ensure that you review your children’s sleeping arrangement, some children try to practice things they have watched on television on each other, or do you have a nanny sleeping with your child in his or her room?
Be on the look out and take action quickly, some children unfortunately have gotten STD’s from their abusers, even worse is when these are not treated early and this leads to more complications or infertility in the future. Tell your children that you don’t keep secrets in your house and they should tell mummy and daddy everything! Empower your children – tell them what to do, tell them not to go anywhere without your consent. Be a nosey mother, ask your child how his or her day was and what they didn’t like about what happened? Specific questions will lead to more detailed answers. Watch the indecent dressing; you are exposing your child to predators when you dress your children too grown up for their age! It is not your child it is the person with the sick thoughts out there.
Parents we must pray for our children and for wisdom, there is soo much going on in the world today that we must be vigilant, we must be aware, we must get on our knees and PRAY for our children.
I challenge you mums to be a Nosey Mum and to do the P.E.P (Prevent – Educate – Protect)
- Fact: Every 2 minutes a child is abused
- Fact: Where do children learn about sex from? 1 % learn from parents, 7% from school and the rest up to 92% learn from friends, magazines, real live encounters etc.
- Fact: If you don’t show your children love in the house, someone outside can easily do so instead.
Get a copy of the Sexual Abuse Handbook written by Christianah Akindolie.