'Don't shield children too much!'

April 17, 2011 - 0:0

Let me begin by saying that I believe that children have to be loved, nurtured and protected from unpleasant realities of life (as much as possible) through early childhood. Having said that, I would like to add, whenever possible, children should be gradually introduced to responsibilities and realities of life. All of which will be based on individual family situations, exposure and experiences of each child and the relationships children develop through the course of their childhood and teenage.

What are the issues that we need to make children aware of?
This depends on the age of the children. For instance, I believe that children around the age of 10/11 should be introduced to the importance of privacy and their body; teach boys and girls to respect each other's physical space; equip them with words to use when they feel that others are in their space, particularly when someone is being disrespectful. Identify a go to person, who the kid and parents trust. Children often have questions which are confidential and they should be able to reach out to a responsible adult.
Teenagers should be informed about drug abuse and the many faces of drug abuse. As stimulants and over the counter medications are being abused. Second, teens should be educated to be alert and aware of their surroundings. Third, teens should have seminars/moral science class about the importance of ""rules"" on facebook and other social networks. Cyber bullying are dangerous and kids innocently get sucked into it. Fourth, the dangerous of chatting with strangers online cannot be over-emphasized.
At what age should children be spoken to about death, money, betrayals in relationships, etc?
Discussing money and relationships will depend upon individual families and their situation with regard to these two issues. For example, if the family is going through a divorce or if parents are separated, children should be informed and educated about the pros and cons of their situation. Although explaining to the child is important, the extent of information will depend on the age of the child and the situation. Death, if it is in the immediate family, should be discussed to the child age appropriately. If a parent of the child is suffering from cancer or other terminal conditions, it is necessary to prepare the child for the inevitable. At the same time, the child can be taught to rejoice the time left with his/her parent as well as celebrate the life of the parent. This again is private and will be appropriate if discussed individually.
I do not believe that both death and relationships are topics that can be discussed in depth in a school seminar setting. It is a topic that can be touched upon to normalize the situation for all children and prepare children.
For instance, talking about losing a family member and respecting the pain that people feel can be introduced around the age of 10/11. Teens can be made aware of the resources that are available to them if they would like to seek help in discussing their individual situations. This can be a resource that is available at school or in the community – for the family. In addition, it is important to have parents' involvement in such support groups and have parent education session. Sometimes parents are not aware of the child's situation or do not know where to get help.
How are we shielding children — as parents, in schools, through literature?
As I said earlier, it is important to shield our children through a lot of what is out there in the media and society. However, it is also very important to know when to discuss age appropriate material with children. As the saying goes, ""it takes a village to raise a child"" I believe that parents, school and community resources have to work together to build a support system that will inform, educate and support children and parents.
Children can be exposed to age appropriate literature for general reading as well as, literature on their body and puberty at the age of 11/12yrs. Every year in school there can be more information added. Information can be focused on relationships, physical changes and growth, respecting women and respecting one's own body and mind. If required, how and where to seek for help.
In all the above points, it is important to keep in mind that too much information and too little information can be damaging. Raising children is like a tight rope walk; therefore the key is – working with awareness.
(Source: timesofindia.com)