Pay attention to where and whom you’re sending your child to

Published: January 6, 2015
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Talk to your children about inappropriate contact and teach them how to raise alarm or inform you. PHOTO: STOCK IMAGE/ FILE

Talk to your children about inappropriate contact and teach them how to raise alarm or inform you. PHOTO: FILE Talk to your children about inappropriate contact and teach them how to raise alarm or inform you. PHOTO: STOCK IMAGE/ FILE

Our children are not safe. December 16th was proof of that.

Whether they are Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), drone victims or survivors/fatalities in terrorist attacks – children have paid the price for our wars.

They have become collateral damage in a war they know nothing about. And as if all of this isn’t scaring parents everywhere as it is, there are the undocumented madrassas – the countless, unmonitored religious seminaries, where parents send their children to learn the message of God.

Reports have frightening statistics. They are free to air hate speech via loudspeakers. They are free to brainwash young and innocent minds. There have been virtually no crackdowns on these madrassas, these seminaries that regularly come in the news for the abuse of children.

In a recent news story, a child was assaulted and murdered in a mosque. What’s even more frightening about this case is that this is neither the first nor the only case in which children have become the victims. The police have registered a case and are currently investigating it, but this is not the end of the discussion.

In fact, there ought to be more discourse on this than ever. How many evil people are hiding under the cloak of religion? And how long will it take before we stop thinking that every man with a beard is a man of God?

Although I can continue with a condemnation-filled blog about the incompetence of the government, the security agencies and the police officials and bashing madrassas, how will that help in saving a child from a future disaster? Hence, this is just a humble message to all the parents out there who have children in that semi-independent age where they have legs strong enough to carry them away from home but they are not mature enough to understand the risks of being out there in a big, bad, truly scary world.

Parents need to figure out ways of keeping their children safe. Organise a neighbourhood watch, get a team of parents who you trust and can rely on and share the responsibility. Teach your children about strangers, contact with strangers or being able to return home. Teach even the uneducated ways to protect their children – sometimes the working class or the low socio-economic class has enough on their plate and cannot focus on the security and safety of their children. Help them by not only assisting financially (if you can) or socially but also via awareness. Get them to think about where their kid is going; make sure that children are near the parents’ vicinities.

This stuff seems pretty basic, right? Parenting 101? But being a mother and a psychologist, I have counselled and spoken to many parents who have no idea how to protect their children from these monsters. Sometimes our radars are slow on the uptake, sometimes we consider a lot of things as part of a routine, like a child going out to the nearby shop, but as parents, we have to understand that this job is never easy. And it is better to be safe than sorry.

Whether it is a church, a mosque or a synagogue, religion does not mean that these ‘guardians of faith’ cannot harm your children. They are as human as the next person. They have demons, they have their evil, and they have diabolical instincts  which they often act upon. Wearing a holy rabat, a cloak or a beard does not make anyone less or more human. Parents must pay attention to where and whom they are sending their kids to. Whether it is a madrassa, a school or even a playground, parental vigilance cannot be emphasised on enough. Especially in our country, where terrorist attacks are aplenty and the law and order situation leaves much to be desired, our children need to be protected.

Wherever your child goes, especially if they are going there alone, make sure that there is reliable security present. Do not trust strangers with your children, whether it is a babysitter or a teacher, without making sure you have their details verified by credible sources. Talk to your children about inappropriate contact and teach them how to raise alarm or inform you. Until they are at an age where they are able to successfully flee an attack of such kind, you need to be more vigilant about their safety than ever.

Mahwash.Badar.

Mahwash Badar

The author is a clinical psychologist, a mum to two boys and permanently in a state of flux. She tweets @mahwashajaz_ (twitter.com/mahwashajaz_)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.