By Dickson Tumuramye
All children are vulnerable as they grow up. They face several challenges that range from kidnaps, sexual, emotional, and physical abuse, peer rejection, mental health issues, bullying, peer pressure, mistreatment, and harassment from fellow children and adults.
It is worse for the girl child, as they face a lot of abuse, especially sexual abuse from adults. Due to what all children experience, their environment seems unsafe for them. This does not matter whether a child is from a humble or rich background. They can all face such vulnerabilities in life from anyone at any time. This is the reason why, as a parent, you need to teach your child resistance skills.
Child resistance skills refer to skills any child can learn and implement as and when they are faced with a challenge. They can protect themselves from very potentially dangerous or harmful people or situations. It is for their personal safety and well-being in times of need.
You need to help your children recognise the skills they have to be able to prevent danger from reaching them, where possible. Some of these skills include communication, assertiveness, problem-solving, decision-making, shouting, self-expression, boundary-setting, self-awareness, self-confidence, and self-esteem in public, among others.
Some children are vulnerable because back at home they lack love and care, they are emotionally mistreated by their own immediate family members, and they lack empowerment for free expression of their feelings.
Teach them about identifying and/or recognising risky situations that can make them vulnerable. This should include strangers in their lives or even known members who are trying to convince them to engage in bad or risky behaviours.
It all starts with telling them every time what risky situations and dangerous people are and how they can fall into the devil’s trap. Have frequent conversations, even about age-appropriate sexual education messages, including teaching or naming their body parts, and honest discussions about personal boundaries, safety, and consent.
Creating a safe and non-judgmental environment is crucial for open communication with your children. By doing so, you are ensuring that they feel comfortable talking to you about anything. Encourage them to ask questions and share any concerns they might have. You should be concerned if you are not a confidant in any of your children.
When faced with trouble, they should inform any trusted person of any suspicions they have about anyone or anything. This will foster a trusting relationship and promote open dialogue.
Tell them not to receive goodies, hugs, sit on laps, etc. from strangers in the absence of an adult. If it’s someone they know and he or she is the one trying to cause harm to them, teach them how to make an alarm, scream, squeeze a male’s organ, bite, kick, or whatever trick they can use to run away from the perpetrator.
Teach them to always listen to their instincts. These serve as valuable tools for personal safety and decision-making. Encourage them to pay attention to any uncomfortable or strange feelings they may experience about certain individuals or situations. By doing so, they can better protect themselves and make informed choices.
They need to develop personal and private space and command respect for it. Explain to them to set boundaries that others have to respect, and they too need to respect themselves by the way they dress up, speak, play around with opposite sexes and strangers, and conduct themselves well. They need to know when to say yes or no, stop, leave me alone, etc. in the affirmative, ask for their space without fear, use a strong voice, stick to their principles, and always make direct eye contact.
Patience and perseverance are part of life in every situation. Some children fall victim to circumstances because they are not patient. They like quick and “glittering” things; they want to be like others without understanding the process, and as a result, they are tempted to go with any suggestion that can take them to their “dream space,” and they regret it later. In such a life, they need good problem-solving skills and thoughtful solutions to their challenges.
As a parent, always be ready to listen to your child’s concerns. Don’t just subvert their feelings, fears, anxiety, constant statements, etc. Pay attention to every detail and always create time to talk about them in a lovely tone that brings comfort and ensures security in their lives.