Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Keeping My Child Safe: CSAAM April 2012

We started this morning with some wonderful news about the CSAAM app. Go on, click over and find out more. (You can come back read the rest of my post right after.)

Last year I wrote about why CSA means a lot to me personally and also how I have worked out a set of guidelines for Vicky and me to follow as our little boy learns to find his place in the world. This year's blogathon (hosted with Blogadda), prompted me to explore how my 'guidelines' change and expand as Rahul grows older.

Rahul is now five and a half. While he is still inherently shy, he is also quite outgoing once the initial barriers have been breached. He is now that age where he questions why he can go out with some people and not others, and is still not quite old enough to understand the answers if he gets them. Worse still, it is not improbable that he will discuss my explanations with these people. He also started big school last year and very happily made friends with older kids who introduced him to Big Questions.

1. One of the most important lines we are drawing for him these days is the boundary of personal space. Since he is still young enough for a lot of roughousing this is a little difficult ("Yes, I can tickle you here but no, you may not tickle your grandmother there.") His earlier notions of bodily privacy have loosened somewhat and he is also showing a great deal of curiosity. As a parent I am also learning to discipline myself. If I don't want him touching me in certain areas then I remind myself to be careful not to touch him into those areas either except, say, during a bath or while applying medicine.

2. Good touch-bad touch was an elastic concept earlier, as I mentioned in last year's posts but now it is vital that he understands that bad touch is any kind of contact that makes him uncomfortable. I have expanded the concept to include verbal exchanges including teasing as well as actual bodily contact. He is encouraged to discuss everything with us. It's not always easy and it's certainly not comfortable but at least this way I know more about what he is exposed to.

3. He is now old enough to be sent out to play and too old for me to tag around behind him on the playground. So I stay on the sidelines or within shouting distance. We are in Vizag right now and the kids in my parents's complex play in around the parking areas. It's all open and it's a big bunch who seem friendly and welcoming. Given my tendency to paranoia I had to really psyche myself up to walk away and leave him alone with those kids downstairs, but it's all good. And it ties up with something else that I believe -- we should encourage our older children to look out for the younger ones.

4. We went a little crazy at the beaches yesterday afternoon. At one point Rahul got so soaked we took his tshirt off and then his soaked shorts were sliding off too. He wasn't wearing underwear so we didn't take the shorts off. He took some convincing to go back into the water without his tee, which I was glad to see. Ideally I would want a world where none of us is constrained to wear more clothes than we like but if Rahul had been my daughter instead of my son I would have worried about her playing in the water with unknown older boys (as was the case) topless.

None of these are major changes in my lifestyle or thinking. If anything, our guidelines are a result of tweaking our usual behaviour mildly to suit Rahul's age and exposure to the larger world. That I believe is one of the keys to limiting CSA potential. None of us can completely protect our children but we can ensure that we teach them to stand up for themselves, loudly and strongly, and that we are never too far away either mentally or physically.

If you have something to add to my thoughts I'd be happy to hear and if needed share them. Do feel free to join the CSAAM 2012 blogathon, twitter chats or the conversations at our site.


CSA Awareness said...

Thanks for the post.

George J said...

HI sue,
This is George (VVS class 11,12)
Ive been silently following your blogs for a while now. Great job, very insightful and very well written.
Your doing a good job at the mommy thing.
Just write a story about a boy wizard already.
Hope things are going well with you and regards to your family.

regarding your article, This is a topic that is denifitely an area of paranoia for me too. We have a soon to be 3yr old and are soon going to have to teach him a lot of the things that you mentioned in your post.
Things are not like when we were kids and definitley a lot diff from when our parents were kids.

My challenge lies with how do I efficiently protect my kid and at the same time allow him to experience the freedoms that childhood has to offer. I certainly enjoyed them as a kid and I dont remember being given course on sexual predators. However like I said times have changed and in the end no matter what people say, the guilt will always be ours to bear were anything to happen to our kids.

I think the most important thing and the one place we can make a difference is to make our homes a place of absolute openess, one where a child is not ashamed to cry for help, to report a weird uncle and to know for sure that mommy and daddy has their backs.

Sreetama said...

In addition to what you said about teaching a child how to distinguish between good and bad touch, I think we should also ask children to raise an alarm, either by creating a ruckus, or loudly telling off the person involved. Sometimes, waiting for an adult we trust to come along may make it too late. this is something my mother taught me to do, after a small incident at a mishti shop. I think it makes sense. Also, she told me never to be ashamed. This is what she said, "the human body is the cleanest thing in the world. Even if u clean a dirty sewer, once you wash up, you are clean again". this has had such a bearing impact on me. I believe in more ways than one, it makes me invincible and keeps my soul intact.

Sue said...

Hey George, I can't believe you thought you had to introduce yourself. We're doing well, thanks. Drop me a mail? I'm not sure what id you're using these days.

One of the hardest lines to walk is that between caution and paranoia. My mother certainly gave me a talk on predators and she was protective but you'll remember how much freedom I got. When we were young she was always nearby and she used to encourage us to confide in her, everything from our likes to our daily events. So yeah, agree with you about absolute openness. And remember, the guilt is not the child's or the parent's. It belongs entirely to the predator.

Do mail, George, with pics. I would love to catch up and promise ot return the favour!

Sreetama -- That's a powerful thought. Thanks so much. I'll use that. Please tell your mum.