Parents should trust and allow children to choose the persons they want to be with, and should they complain about being uncomfortable with anyone in particular, parents should respect it and take the complaint seriously, says Aarti C. Rajaratnam, child psychologist.

Speaking on ‘how to keep our children safe in today’s world’, organised by Early Learning Centre, Ms. Rajaratnam says the circle that’s formed with a child’s stretched arm is her personal space.

Personal circle

“This is the circle of trust. Mother and persons in whom he or she has trust are in this circle. The child should be told that only the persons she trusts should be allowed to touch him or her.”

The question then arose on how to deal when a child is taken to a family gathering where many people come to hug and kiss the child. Ms. Rajaratnam says, “The child knows persons he/ she trusts. If the child screams, you parents should intervene and respect his/ her decision. If you say that the person who has come forward is a good man, it will send a confusing signal. Allow safe socialising.”

Grim numbers

Ms. Rajaratnam says in India one in every two girls and one in every two boys are sexually abused.

They are abused not by strangers but by family members, she says and adds that these children need to be made aware of inappropriate touches.

This awareness should start as early as two years. Parents should keep communication line open with the child that enables him/ her to report about inappropriate touches.

The simple way to make children aware, Ms. Rajaratnam says, is by using an outline of male and female’s body on a worksheet.

The child should be made to name each part of the body. The child should be allowed to dress up by making them to draw underwear, pants and skirt. “Do not make this exercise shameful.”

Children should be told that the parts of the body that are covered are personal and none other than those he/she trusts should be allowed close to it. Child should be told that doctors check these parts when they are not well.

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