By Raj Lakshmi Dube
I am not a child counselor or a professional teacher but my grey hair and decades of experience has encouraged me to put my thoughts on paper.
For the past few days, news channels have been continuously broadcasting news regarding the merciless murder of a minor girl being stabbed and killed by a young man. The video captured by a CCTV camera in the vicinity was played and replayed a number of times. It sent shivers down the spine of everyone who saw it, including myself. I belong to a different generation with a very protected upbringing, nevertheless, mothers were mothers who kept sharp eyes on their children. Even if the latter wanted to hide any instance or occurrence the mother would know. First a deep look, and then, what happened today? No way could we hide or lie our way out, the truth would creep out.
The news anchors clarified that the girl was a minor – only 16 years of age at the time of her murder, and she had been in the ‘relationship’ for 2 years. I need not clarify what relationship means in today’s context. That would mean the so called relationship started when she was only 14 years old, barely into her teens.
I do not mean to criticise either the parents or society at risk of being called outdated. However, there are a few precautions which parents in the so called modern society would do well to take.
Children are the most precious gift of God and should be taken care of. When the child starts going to school educate him/her about good touch and bad touch. No matter if it is a close relative or a stranger, if such an incident occurs, scream at the top of your voice.
Once they get into their teens you need to be more alert. If the child takes the school bus and the bus stand is at a little distance from the house, request a family member or a neighbor whose child also commutes to the same school, to drop and pickup, especially if it is the lonely time in the afternoon. Or, maybe take turns to escort the children.
Know your children’s friends, visit their homes on one pretext or another, meet the parents and casually enquire about the residing family members and visitors if any. If the child is going for a night out, which has become a trend in modern times, escort him/her to the residence and also pick up, more so if it is a nuclear family and both the parents are working.
When the working parents return from their respective jobs, after refreshing themselves, find some time to talk to the children. It is understandable that they may have had a bad day or are exhausted but check their priorities. I am sure children will be on the top. A child has so much to share about their whole day, friends, school, etc., don’t deny his/her time. If you ignore them once or twice they will stop communicating. A bigger problem is if it is an only child. Siblings can at least share their feelings at the risk of being blackmailed with “if you don’t do this I will tell mom and dad”. But that will at least give you a peep into their lives. But where will a single offspring go to if not to friends? Thus knowing the friends becomes even more important.
The fledglings grow up very fast and start looking around them with their limited knowledge of sex and friends. Teenagers become conscious of their physical changes and are guided by the so called friends, (boys/girls). Having multiple friends becomes a proof of popularity and feeds their ego – the more the merrier. Not having a boy friend or a girlfriend is archaic to say the least. They start playing with other’s emotions, playing one against the other, which happened in the present case. Be sure to set a limit of friendship, especially in the physical sense.
In the 70s, I read the book “Godfather”, wherein the parents of the girl would open her mail to make sure she was not communicating with a so called wrong person. The days of letters and mail are over and mobile phones have replaced them. Surreptitiously check your child’s phone once in a while, even if it encroaches on their privacy. It is for their own good.
Give them the right values, and a no compromise on crossing boundaries set by you. These days there is a lot of talk about being friends with your children. However, there is a need to understand that parents are parents and children are children, period. Guide them before they stumble or fall.
Last but not the least, if you see any instance of eve-teasing do not walk away (it is not my business), or ignore. The girl being teased or misbehaved with could be your own child. If there is a threat to you, the least you can do is to move away and call the police, or start throwing stones or in some way collect people around. You could support a girl and save a life.