Njundu Drammeh

Dear Parent,

We live in interesting times. There was a time when parents used to look forward to the future for their children; but no more now. The future is not what it used to be. You don’t need to look into the crystal ball to know this fact. It’s being played right before our eyes.

Our children, both boys and girls, aren’t safe any more and any where. Not at home or in the streets and communities. Not even in care institutions.The home is no longer a loving, warm and protect place for children. The snakes hiss where the doves play.

So like you, I am also deeply worried about the safety of our children, about the dangers and challenges that lie ahead of them, the snares and honey traps that unconscionable people would lay for them. Their vulnerabilities scare me, especially those among them who are still very young and impressionable. The thoughts of what the future holds for them fill me with inexplicable anxiety, a frightening trepidation.

It’s without gainsaying that we have plethora of laws which guarantee the protection of our children from all forms of abuse, violence, exploitation and discrimination. But alas, laws are necessary but not sufficient conditions to ensure protection. And you, the parents, cannot equally guarantee their protection. And since you cannot be with your child(ren) 24/7, you may find some of the following useful for their protection:

1. Teach your younger children the names of their body parts, correctly and unashamedly, as well as about “appropriate” and “inappropriate” touches. It would help them to tell you when they are sexually abused.

2. Teach your children some life skills which could help them to safely navigate the many challenges life may throw at their feet. Teach them skills such as self esteem, assertiveness, problem solving, decision making, critical thinking, effective communication, anger management, how to say “No”, how to avoid peer pressure, how to be future oriented. Children who feel valued and genuinely loved, have high sense of esteem and dignity, and are surrounded by a trusting, loving and caring support system can, to a great extent, protect themselves.

3. Teach your children about the birds and the bees and all that are to be known about how their bodies work, including the reproductive system. Be very frank with them. Call a spade a spade, not some spoon. Children’s minds aren’t wired to understand parables, sayings, proverbs or some technical mumbo-jumbo. If you don’t teach your children these facts of life, the street or some unscrupulous persons would and that may be disastrous. It’s not true that children who are aware of their reproductive system become promiscuous. In fact, they are more careful.

4. Always maintain honest, open line of communication between you and your children. Let your children know that they can always talk to you about anything under the sun and you would be there to listen to them without judgement. You would be the first one they would talk to when in danger. A trusting parent-child relationship is a moral booster and a great protection mechanism.

5. Teach your children to know their bodies belong to them and that means their entire bodies. That no one has the right to touch any part of their bodies without their consent. And they can tell you if they are feel someone has inappropriately touched them.

6. Teach your children that they can and should draw their own personal boundaries and make it known to everyone. Insist that they make everyone who come into contact with them to know and respect their boundaries.

7. Teach your children to alwayd trust their intuition or gut feeling. If they feel uncomfortable about a person or situation, they should follow their intuition and leave.

8. Teach your children that money and gifts, and “promises”, given to them by others shouldn’t be kept secret. They should always tell you. The first trick of sex predators when they give gifts is to say “this is our secret; don’t tell any one”. Let them tell you.

9. Teach your children to avoid asking for lifts ( hitchhiking). If they cannot, and sometimes they cannot, let them ensure they don’t get inside alone and without taking the colour of the vehicle and the number plate.

10. Teach your children to be authentically themselves in whatever situation they maybe be find yourselves. Since they are not in this world to pander to the pleasure of anyone, they should never be false to and others.

11. And lastly, enrol your child in a child led organisation, one which is also safe for children and provides the appropriate protection structures, mechanisms and support system in place. Children whose social skills are enhanced are often not taken advantage of.

I hope these help to contribute to the protection of our children.

Yours

Safiyoungba