Time to talk to kids about right and wrong touches

New Delhi, Aug 18 (IANS) Meera Das is a worried mother. Daily news reports of minor children being raped or molested has added lines to her pretty forehead. A mother of a two-year-old daughter, Das knows she has to inform her child about right and wrong touches to her body but doesn't know how to begin.

Like Das, there are many parents in the metropolis who constantly worry about their child's security, but are hesitant to introduce the subject of sexuality at a tender age.

According to experts, parents should start introducing the subject as early as two years.

But this is easier said than done.

"I had many questions in my mind. How to initiate the process? When is the right age to broach sensitive topics like good touch and bad touch? How to explain to a child who can barely talk or comprehend. How to be comfortable with your child while discussing it and how to make the talk comfortable," Das told IANS.

According to parenting expert Bhavna Awasthy, it is very important for parents to talk to their children about right and wrong "touches" considering the growing number of cases of sexual assaults on kids.

"I know it isn't easy. You can't just get up one day when your child is of 10 years and say 'Let me discuss it now'. I am sorry to say, but that's too late," Awasthy told IANS.

"The right age is two years. At this age, the child doesn't understand the consequences of a good touch or bad touch. The thought has to be etched into their minds by reinstating the fact that their parents are the most important people in their life and they will be there with them whatever happens," she added.

Child-care expert Vaneet Parmar agreed.

"Children should be told again and again that 'Mom and dad will always be there for you. We are your best friends and you have to tell us everything'. The child then starts confiding in you," he said.

Parmar said the next step is to explain to the child what a wrong act is.

"Sexual molestation happens usually in schools," he pointed.

"The parents should reinforce the fact in the child's mind that whenever he goes to the toilet he will have to follow the same process minus his parents. If there is a change in action or anyone else coming into the picture, the child should protest by saying 'no' to that person. The parents should also tell the child to inform them immediately," he said.

Awasthy said it is important to tell a child that no one, other than a parent, can touch his or her private parts.

"They should be told that no one can touch their private parts other than their parents or grandparents (if they are looking after the child). So, if there is a third person breaking the chain, action has to be taken," she added, saying the parents should be very specific and clear about the instructions.

After these initial steps, parents should focus on building a bond with their child.

"It should be a trust building relationship from then on. After the age of two, the child grows up fast. But what the parents have told the child at that age will always remain in his or her mind," Awasthy added.

Experts said after the age of two, the parents should sit again with their kids when they turn eight to explain what would be the consequences of a wrong act.

"These days, the innocent days of children have already been snatched by the massive media exposure. Children mature fast. They know. But parents should also not take it for granted that a child will learn about horrific terms like rape, molestation or abuse on their own," she added.

"When your child is eight, you have to move beyond the act part and talk about the affects it will have on them and on the family," Parmar added.

Nitin Pandey, founder of www. parentune.com, an online community to guide parents, said parents play an important role in shaping the lives of their children.

"We offer an authentic community of parents who can interact with each other and discuss the issues that concerns them. Every parent will have his way of dealing with a particular problem. We have also roped in experts to guide the parents in parenting," he added.

"But parenting is not an easy thing to do, especially in today's time. it is all about patience and understanding," Pandey told IANS.

(Shilpa Raina can be contacted at shilpa.r@ians.in)

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