‘It’s a big bad world out there’ is an oft used phrase in media to signify that not everyone is good. Truly so, there are evils aplenty all over the world, and protecting your child from these is a primary responsibility. Newspapers have been plagued by topics of child molestation and rapes, while television has been intently recreating them. However, just these aren’t enough to spread awareness. It begins at home.
In many cases, children do not know that they are being molested. The Bollywood movie, 'Highway' and the Hollywood movie, 'Perks of being a Wallflower', address this issue. Owing to such cases, it becomes important for parents to broach the topic of personal space with their child.
Referred to as proxemics in the study of non verbal communication, personal space deals primarily with understanding the physical distance between two individuals. Anthropologist, Edward T Hall describes four levels of distance that can occur in different social situations; stating that ‘intimate distance’ is often between 6 to 18 inches. This intimate distance is what needs to be taught to our children, because anyone getting close to the intimate distance, or breaching it, is a violation of one’s personal space.
Although most of us do start teaching children about personal space right from early childhood, like talking about their private parts, it is necessary that each parent teaches his or her child about safe touch and unsafe touch. “To talk to your child about private parts, use things like video, role play, or anything that you use to explain normal concepts to your child,” says Indrani Basu, Founder, Autism Society, West Bengal.
Here are a few specific ways in which you can teach children about personal space:
- Talk to them: Nothing works better than talking to them. Make them sit down and understand that certain parts of the body are private, and not to be seen or touched by anyone apart from you and that too only for cleaning purposes. Indrani says, “We start with very basic concepts like body parts, of privacy, of space, of private acts, and where they can be done. This can be done with a child as young as two years old.” Explain to them that anyone touching those private parts are violating their personal space, and that they should immediately come and tell you about the same.
- Show them videos: The digital world is filled with videos of any and every topic. Pick out a suitable video, one that won’t gross them out, and sit with them through the video so that you can clear any doubts that they may have regarding the same.
- Use their toys: Those Barbie dolls that your little girl plays with? Explain to her that even she is covered because certain parts aren’t meant to be seen. Show her those Barbie parts so she starts to understand for herself, as kids can relate to their dolls quite well.
- Role play: If you think videos might be uncensored, or that you don’t want to take a chance; enact scenes for your child. Resort to role play and tweak it to suit your child; without grossing him out. Role plays are an effective way of putting things across.
- Puppet shows: Come up with your own handmade puppets, script your own story and engage your child in listening to stories on the topic. Make sure you simply the theme as much as possible.
- Real-life examples: With so much news in the media these days about children's safety being at stake, draw from real-life examples and explain the importance of maintaining personal space to children.
Remember that your child is your responsibility, and that it is your duty to ensure that your child is aware about personal space. Keep him safe from the big bad world.