Why children must be heard
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CHILDREN should feel free enough to speak openly to their parents, within reason. They should go to their parents for advice and discuss anything of concern. In turn, parents should listen to their children. It is essential to establish this type of relationship with children during their first five years. This is the time their brains develop faster than at any other time of their lives.

Young children are open-minded and will not hesitate to go to parents for help and advice when needed. How they are received will determine if they continue to share their thoughts and questions with adults or adopt a coping strategy.

The Convention on the Rights of the Child states that children have a right to have their opinions heard. Too many children in our society grow up afraid of their parents. They are scared that their parents may shout at them, call them derogatory names, belittle and insult them, and they are worried their parents might beat them or punish them in a cruel and heartless manner.

When children are afraid of their parents, there is bound to be a lack of communication. Children will learn very quickly that open conversation is off-limits, and they will also refrain from, or be afraid to, ask pertinent questions. By adopting this stance, children hope to avoid the wrath or displeasure of their parents.

Not just because they do not want the adult getting angry and making a scene to embarrass them, but because it is disconcerting to a child’s well-being to be shouted at, belittled, beaten, slapped, cuffed or made to feel worthless or inadequate.

Whether they realise it or not,’ disconcertment’ is precisely the feelings adults want to evoke in children. They believe children will learn a valuable lesson or conform to their ideals through harsh and unreasonable treatment. Some adults testify to its authenticity because they were handled similarly as children, and they turned out alright. However, their idea of ‘alright’ may involve some repressed thoughts, ideas and emotions formed in childhood, of which they are unaware.

Children should never be afraid of their parents, but they should be concerned about what their parents think and say to them when admonished for doing wrong. This chastisement should be tapered to the severity of the incident and meted out by parents with understanding and concern. The words, the tone and seriousness of the scolding should be enough to make an impact.

Reprimand should not involve a parent physically harming or humiliating a child. If it does, a disconnect will form between adult and child, to which the adult may be oblivious. Children’s brains are still growing, and adverse childhood experiences will significantly affect their adult mental health.

When children are going through stress, they need to know they can talk to an adult who cares and listens. Likewise, if a child is bullied or a person makes sexual advances, the child should feel able to relay these facts to a parent or a reliable family member.

When children cannot speak openly, sometimes they ‘act up’ hoping to receive some attention. Acting up could lead to more trouble and does not solve the problem. When they are older, they may be able to explain, ‘Remember when I was ten, and I hid mum’s favourite brooch? She found it in the biscuit tin, and I swore it wasn’t me who put it there. Well, I did that because I was angry with her. Daddy was leaving, and I blamed mum for letting him go’.

When adults do not encourage children to express their thoughts or feelings through conversation or reasoning, children are left to form their own opinions; leading them to misinterpret situations. They could grow, harbouring negative beliefs or resentments that are unfounded but true in their minds.

Talking through major events with children is always the best thing to do. Such as a pending separation or divorce, bereavement, relocating to a new area and home, or meeting a new step-parent.

Even if children do not seem interested, they will have views and apprehensions to share when given the proper encouragement from adults. Some adults, especially men, have a way of bottling up their emotions; this could be a trait learnt in childhood that helped them cope back then; still, it is not a valuable trait to pass on to children.

Accepting emotions and allowing them to show can lead to a healthy discussion between parents and children. Talking through why a child is upset, angry or sad will help the child understand how emotions rise and wane; Therefore, there is no need to let them control you, although you can learn to be in control of them.

There is a lot of useful information that parents can teach children to enhance their lives and their future, therefore, it is wise to create communication channels during the early years and keep them open.

If you are concerned about the welfare of a child, call the CPA hotline on 227 0979 or write to us at childcaregy@gmail.com

A MESSAGE FROM THE CHILDCARE AND PROTECTION AGENCY,
MINISTRY OF HUMAN SERVICES AND SOCIAL SECURITY

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