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13 Ways Kids Can Be Prepared For Situations That Threaten Their Safety

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By Ira Joshi:

“A 7-year-old boy left murdered in an upmarket school.”

“A 6-year-old raped in a school bus.”

“A 7-year-old molested by her uncle.”

Newspapers are filled with such news – and it has left most parents like us fearful and anxious about the well-being of our kids.

Separation from your child, even for a little while, can be a cause for worry, as it means withdrawing supervision over the child or leaving the responsibility of taking care of the child with other individuals. Whether the child is at school, at the playground, with friends or for a play date at a friend’s place – as a parent, you are constantly thinking about your child’s safety and well-being. And while you cannot always be with your child, you can still equip your child with the knowledge and skills that can help your child stay more alert and safe when you are not around.

After all, safety is the cornerstone for a child’s healthy development. Thus, ensuring that the child is equipped to live safely is very important. Here are a few tips and strategies that you can easily follow at home to make your child be better-prepared for situations that can threaten their safety.

First and foremost, it’s important to establish open lines of communication with the child. Here are a few quick things you can do:

Listen To Your Child

1. Take an active interest in what the child says or feels.

2. Sometimes, young children are not able to express how they feel. As a parent, it is your responsibility to talk to your child about their day, what they liked (or not) at school, in the playground or wherever they went. Try to understand their likes and dislikes, and what makes them happy or sad, comfortable or uncomfortable at home or outside.

3. Be observant of any changes in their behaviour or body language. Sudden changes in mood or behaviour may be the signs of some stress a child is going through. Watch out for signs like sudden aggressive or withdrawn behaviour.

Do Not Judge

1. Create an atmosphere where children feel completely comfortable to share their thoughts openly. They must not feel that they will be dismissed or reprimanded, if they share something.

2. Let them know that ‘it is not their fault’ when they share something with you. This will encourage them to talk openly with you in the future.

3. Most importantly, remain patient, encouraging and supportive.

Set Safety Rules

1. Make safety rules with children, and draw or write them on a paper. Stick the paper where they can see them easily. Go over the safety rules together so that they can remember them.

2. Set boundaries for playing. Children should know where they can go with friends during their play-time. This will help them understand ‘safe’ and ‘unsafe’ places.

3. Make sure that your child knows your full name, phone number and residential address.

4. Traffic safety is also very important, especially if children venture out alone. They must be taught to look both ways before crossing a street and also understand traffic signals.

Teach Personal Safety Rules

 1. Help them be aware of ‘safe’ and ‘unsafe’ situations or touch. A good way to talk to your child is to let them know that ‘any situation or touch that makes them happy is safe‘ and ‘any situation or touch that makes them feel angry, confused, sad or scared is unsafe‘.

2. Teach them that it’s okay to say ‘no’ and ‘stop’, and move away from a situation if they feel uncomfortable, or if someone is being mean and making them feel bad.  If anything makes them uncomfortable, they should open up about it to a trusted adult.

3. Teach children about their private body parts – and that no one can touch, look at or talk about them.

Children learn best when they see other adults or children model safe behaviours. As parents, we need to provide opportunities for children to be familiar with safety rules and help them learn how to tackle sensitive situations. For example, Galli Galli Sim Sim’s “I Love Elmo” series uses age-appropriate ways to engage children and talk about situations that a child can face while playing. In one of the episodes, Elmo learns the power of the word ‘no’, and how it can be used effectively to stop others from doing something that he does not like. The open and free dialogue between Elmo and his father is illustrative of how parents can be open, understanding and sensitive to their child’s apprehensions.

Education begins at home and it’s critical to equip children with safety measures right from their childhood. While teaching good behaviour and instilling values like respecting elders are important, we must not forget to empower our kids with the knowledge and strength to stand up to what’s wrong or anything that makes them feel uncomfortable. After all, you can be the source of strength for your kids and guide them to be guardians of their own safety.

The author is the vice president, content, Sesame Workshop India.

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Featured image used for representative purposes only.

Featured image source: Kalpak Pathak/Hindustan Times via Getty Images
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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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