By: Zara Maqbool
I recently came across Farhan Akhtar’s open letter to his daughter where he talks about issues that we all tip toe around especially as parents to our children. He talks about issues that not many fathers would be comfortable to talk to their daughters about.
It’s a fact that we feel uncomfortable in talking about sexual abuse with our children. Most of us do not talk about good touch or bad touch or at least. We try to protect them as much as we can by not letting them go to places alone but what about places that we consider safe and that might not be safe at all? What about people that they interact with on a daily basis and who we blindly trust? It’s a fact that the near and dear ones abuse most children.
I for example have categorically told my daughter to always greet whoever comes to visit from a distance. Many of my friends children shakes hands with me or my husband and I refuse to put my hand forward. My son shakes hands with our male friends and family but my daughters by their choice greet from a distance. I have also communicated to my son that he doesn’t need to hug any uncle even if he doesn’t feel like.
I once saw a cousin of mind forcing her daughter and son to meet her brother. “Behave yourself and come and hug and kiss mamoon”. My question is how does good behavior get identified with this gesture?
In our society in the name of good manners and expressing our love to each other physical boundaries are not respected. I remember a time when a porter at the airport kissed my 1 year old on the head saying oh she is so cute and I gave him a piece of my mind for it because he never took my permission. One of the middle-aged ladies sitting there looked at me disapprovingly as if I had rejected this kind gesture.
But little things like these lead to situations in our lives where we don’t say no and accept abuse of all kinds be it physical or emotional. It’s very important for us to empower our children to make choices in their lives. I observe many parents controlling their children in more than one way and if you talk to them they feel it’s a westernized way of being when we refer to giving choices to them.
Amna a mother of two teenagers says, “ isn’t it important to teach our children that if something is making them uncomfortable they can say no?”
Sara adds, “My toddler doesn’t like being kissed excessively and by any one another other than me and when I communicated this to the extended family they felt defensive assuming I was questioning them. In reality I was just stating Zaina’s choice of saying NO.”
Yes topics like these sound scandalous but then we need to be aware of how innocent acts at one point of life can become burdens for years ahead.
We have to facilitate our children’s right to say no to authority figures. Safety is more important than good manners like I said before. Yes our children should greet elders but it’s not important to take “piyaar” from everyone who comes. We thing hugging is acceptable. Its considered normal to hug but teaching that hugging is a must and defines good manners is wrong. Why not ask them if they want to hug so they know they can decide who can or cannot touch them?
Good touch and bad touch are realities that need to be addressed. If something doesn’t feel right to them please don’t discount their feelings or perceptions because you feel uncomfortable about it. Because that’s your own discomfort you are projecting onto them. Lets encourage our children to feel confident about drawing the line and saying NO!
Story first published: 13th October 2017