For all those 'awkward' conversations

For all those 'awkward' conversations

When you watch one of the videos she has created on child sexual abuse and puberty, you watch in amazement. Not because the content is shocking or makes you feel uneasy, but because of the simplicity with which issues are deconstructed. In a matter of a few minutes, she is able to do what many can’t – convey what puberty is in a very simple and direct way.

Launched in September last year, howtotellyourchild.com is the brainchild of Deepa Kumar. When you meet her, you come to realise that she is as straight-forward as her videos and workbooks. It’s only logical – her need to be direct comes with the territory she’s dealing with, puberty.

Delving into the nitty-gritty of child sexual abuse and puberty through her interactive online portal, Deepa emphasises on the importance of talking to your child about such sensitive issues, right from a young age. “I think the whole thing started with the fact that we don’t want to talk about sex, which is why we don’t want to talk about puberty and the potential abuse. If they don’t know what is going to happen, how will they differentiate the right from the wrong? As there is no real knowledge, they don’t understand what is wrong. More than it being wrong, they won’t realise that someone is taking advantage of their innocence,” she says.

Being the mother of two young daughters, Deepa related to the difficulty of
explaining such sensitive topics to children. And when she found out that there were other hapless parents like her, the project became much more important. Wanting to tackle this problem of making ‘tough conversations easy’, she started this platform so that parents like her could explain such processes in a fun, interactive and positive manner.

Commenting on the already available content on puberty and sexual abuse, she quips that the language being used was rudimentary, as it did not go beyond ‘good touch’ and ‘bad touch’. She argues a perpetrator does a lot of the things before touching, such as being alone with the child. As a result, the child should be forewarned about the act and be made aware about how to identify it before it happens.

Deepa’s interactive content, both in the form of books and videos, are aimed at young boys and girls (as early as three years), and parents. ‘Awkward topics’ like ‘how do boys’ or girls’ bodies develop?’ are covered and her videos and workbooks are extremely well executed, making you wonder if it was really difficult to talk to your children about it. And the icing on the cake is that they are neither preachy nor loaded with jargon. It is simple, to the point, and pretty much self-explanatory.

Red flags
Inappropriate acts, such as exhibitionism, fondling and intercourse are seen as child sexual abuse. According to a survey conducted by the Ministry of Women and Child Development, 53.22 per cent children reported having faced one or more forms of sexual abuse.

Deepa has created five alerts by which the child can know when something is wrong and communicate it to his/her parents or close caretakers. She identifies the five alerts as:
n See alert: No one apart from the child’s primary caretakers can see their private parts and they should not see anyone else’s.

Talk alert: Children must not talk about their private parts with people who are not their caretakers.

Alone alert: Children should ensure that they travel in groups and not wander alone, except with their caretakers.

Hold alert: Children should not allow people they don’t know to hold, hug or kiss them. If they feel uncomfortable, they should say no.

Touch alert: No one other than the child’s parents and caretakers can touch their private parts.

By providing the children with proper  vocabulary and language, it becomes easier for them to talk about a wrong-doing. “I was experimenting the alerts with my then four-and-half-year-old daughter, when she said that someone had done the ‘touch alert’ with her,” recalls Deepa. “As she had the language to come and tell me, she could see to it that her parent would do something about it. This will deter many abusers from repeating their acts,” she adds.

If parents are able to talk about such things more openly, children will become less curious and experimental, believes the entrepreneur. Deepa started her own company called Yashram Lifestyle, which deals in creating comfortable maternity wear and innerwear for women. Driven and focused, she now aspires to eliminate the cloud that surrounds ‘difficult’conversations and provide a reliable platform for parents and children to discuss puberty and sexual abuse.

The platform has been extremely successful and has received a lot of involvement from other countries, too, reveals Deepa. In the future, she hopes to diversify the programme to other ‘awkward’ topics such as safe sex to help dissuade the unease.

“Our fear of these things are imaginary. If we really deal with it head on, it can become a friend like our mascot, Ms and Mr P the dragon,” she maintains.

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