WHEN a man sits down to reflect on his childhood, he usually can say outright which males influenced him the most, in either a negative or positive way. Likewise, most women will be able to tell you from whom they garnered advice and confidence during their developmental years, or about the person they chose to emulate because they found them inspirational.
While it’s true that parents are meant to have the greatest influence over their children, when children are not getting the input and direction they need from their parents, they will veer towards adults who seemingly appeal to them. The child may be unable to discern whether the appeal has a negative or positive affect. All they may realise is the fact that there is a void in their life that needs to be filled.
Many pre-adolescent and adolescent children find themselves on the wrong side of the law, having been influenced by the wrong type of role model: when really, if they had received some encouragement and attention at the appropriate time from the right person, their lives might have taken a totally different route.
Parents should choose their friends wisely. It is never a good idea to have too many acquaintances visiting the home and befriending your children. Deciding who your close, trustworthy friends are and who you prefer to keep at arm’s length may be difficult for people who live with extended family or in close quarters with family members. It is hard to control who your relatives bring into a shared environment.
But parents should have the authority to set the precedence of how their households are run and to choose the people they prefer to be around their children. They should aim to do this as best they can, even in trying circumstances. If something feels wrong about a person, then they are not obligated to have that person in their home or around their children.
Children have been sexually abused and molested by people in their own families, by neighbours and by so-called family friends. It is difficult to tell exactly who is a perpetrator or when or how they might strike. Therefore, adults should pay heed to the adage, ‘Every smiling face is not a friend’ and stay focused on protecting their children in the home, as well as outdoors.
In addition to looking out for their children, parents can empower them not to feel intimidated by situations. They can teach their children that it is alright to say ‘no’ if they are asked to do anything they feel is inappropriate. If they are feeling uncomfortable in someone’s company, they can say ‘please call my parents I am not feeling well,’ or they can ask to be taken home.
Above all, children must be encouraged not to keep secrets from their parents. Not only do perpetrators know which children are best to pick on, they are also aware of how to keep children quiet by threatening to hurt their family members, or by bribing their victims.
Children will only feel confident enough to protect themselves if they have competent, understanding parents who trust them and who listen to and acknowledge their concerns.
When a child feels ridiculed or belittled, unimportant or misunderstood by parents, (or caregivers) it is unlikely that the child will disclose any untoward behaviour or uncomfortable incident that may have occurred.
There is no doubt that there are adults, quite possibly some even reading these very words, who have had one or two ‘close shaves’ in their lives with a would-be sexual perpetrator: and even those who are survivors of an unpleasant sexual encounter during their childhood that was never brought to light, yet it still affects them to this day.
When adults talk about the sexual ordeals that they suffered as children, their elders always question why they did not come forward or speak out about what had happened at the time. But children do not speak out about many things, unless there is a suitable platform, such as an understanding smile and a listening ear.
To do right by children, adults must be cognisant of the various people, situations and circumstances to which they expose their children and how they are possibly being influenced. They should anticipate the needs of their off-spring, so they can guide them accordingly and holistically — minimising the necessity for their child to seek surrogate role models, who are not always positive influences.
If you are concerned about the welfare of a child call the CPA hotline on 227 0979 or write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org
A MESSAGE FROM THE CHILDCARE AND PROTECTION AGENCY, MINISTRY OF SOCIAL PROTECTION