By Sholain Govender-Bateman – Pretoria-based New Media journalism lecturer who worked for The Star, Pretoria & edited magazines. She is mum to 2 gorgeous girls, Isobel and Aishwari, and wife to Barry Bateman. Visit her on Twitter@sholain
I am unapologetically and obsessively over-protective of my two girls. I don’t care if other people tell me that I should relax and leave them be, or if people say don’t be so protective. You raise your kids the way you feel fit and I’ll take care of mine. Child abuse is an opportunistic crime which is rife in our society and if we don’t protect our kids, they are at risk.
This doesn’t mean that every child who is abused has negligent parents. Or that all parents of children who are victims of paedophiles are guilty of not caring for their children. Sometimes, we can be completely helpless even if we have done our best. It does mean that we, as parents, have a responsibility to do everything in our power to protect our children in the hope that they are never, ever exposed to violence, harm or abuse of any kind.
I was raised by conservative parents who watched my twin sister and me with eagle-eyes and whilst their protectiveness seemed stifling at times, in hindsight, I am extremely grateful for it. I’ve heard many painful, personal accounts from friends and acquaintances of sexual abuse that took place when they were children. Too many…
I don’t want to live with the regret of thinking, “I should have been more protective.”
When we’re out somewhere – a shopping mall, restaurant and park – I don’t let them out of my sight unless my hubby or granny is with them.
When we’re at friends’ or relatives’ houses or gatherings, hubby and I always keep an eye on them. I’m not lulled into a false sense of security that they are 100% safe amongst people we know. Often, child abuse perpetrators are known to the child. That doesn’t mean that I think all our friends and relatives are potential abusers, I do trust a lot of people. But I am also always alert.
Although it would be kind and tempting if a friend spontaneously volunteers to babysit so that hubby and I can enjoy a night out, we’d rather pay their trusted nanny overtime or opt for their granny or one of my sisters to watch them.
I am paranoid. Surely, you are too if you are fully aware of the child abuse statistics and read the papers and watch the news?!
It’s our job to educate ourselves on how to empower our children, to know the signs of a child who is being abused, to double-check the background of caregivers before entrusting them with your precious child and to really listen when our children speak. They need to know we trust them and believe them and we’ll always be there for them.
I speak to my almost 4.5 year-old about what she should do if anyone tried to hurt her. Not daily or even monthly, probably just two or three times a year. Regularly and casually, hubby and I encourage her to tell us who/what makes her sad or happy, if anyone hugs or hits her, if anyone tickles her or pinches her. Etc.
We playfully teach her self-defense, and how to kick someone if she doesn’t feel safe. We make it a game and don’t tell her what the bad things are that some people could do. We don’t plant negativity and fear in her young mind but we are realistic and know that this world is not a fairytale, real life is harsh. We don’t want her to be paranoid but we do want her to be able to react quickly and confidently if she ever feels unsafe. We practice screaming out loud so that she can get other people’s attention if she needs help.
Most importantly, we tell her that she can always and forever trust mama and daddy.