LET YOUR TWEEN HAVE A SAFE PYJAMA PARTY AT A FRIEND’S HOUSE
We all have fond memories of going over to our friends’ places to play, during our vacations or on weekends. Life was simpler then - parents used to accompany you to your friend’s doorstep in the day and pick you up by evening. There was always an ever-vigilant mother or a grand parent overseeing all your activities in that house and the children used to feel free to enjoy their playtime together in the secured environment of their friend’s house.
Offenders can cultivate confidence easily
Times have changed and the pace of life has made circumstances more complex. The new generation of children are also reaching physical maturity at a younger age than what it used to be before. Therefore, the perspective of offenders has also changed. The offender sees an 'emotionally fragile yet physically developed young human' who has developed confidence in him just because he is related to the friend or is a regular visiting member in that particular household. This gives the offender a window of opportunity to gain trust of the tween and further lure him or her into false sense of security wherein the tween is comfortable in mind and body with him at close proximity and to his physical touch.
Houses become easy stalking grounds for offenders
Many such incidents have happened before and many do occur now, and are often swept under the carpet because of the fear of social shame and misplaced views of ethical decorum between a certain class of people. Criminals do not care about social status or morality as they are driven by their need to fulfil their carnal desires. After identifying a suitable target, the offender only needs a suitable time and place to commit his offence. Houses give both these things to him as he has a great degree of control over the surroundings which he exerts ownership on; as well as, being his private property he is free to exert his influence without external disturbances or interferences.
Prepare your child to handle such incidents
As a parent, howsoever you know the parents of your tween’s friends it is always better to prepare your child for such unpleasant situations that may arise during the course of her being alone in someone else’s house.
Have an open but casual dialogue with your tween: Tweens are on the cusp of teenage where their minds are wanting to explore more and often find rules stifling. Instead of setting rules which threaten them with punishment later, have a set of sublime behavioural standards set for them through an open dialogue. Casually work out scenarios as mundane as “What if you need to use the bathroom in the middle of the night at your friend’s place?” to “What if your friend’s father, uncle or brother constantly sidles up to you or unnecessarily touches you at every chance he gets?” Through a casual question-answer dialogue, impress upon your tween what he or she has to do in order to deflect advances done in such situations. Impress upon the tween that 'security lies in numbers’ - not by being alone.
Explain and rehearse ‘good touch’ and ‘bad touch’ with your tween: Without making the subject into a dreary sex-education class, parents can casually remind the child about what is the level of physical contact acceptable from a stranger. The child can also be told how to move away from a person who is exerting undesirable proximity towards him or her by moving to a safer and more dependable adult in that home, without causing alarm to others. Explain the level of discomfort your child may sense to sight, smell or touch from a friend or their relatives and then give it options on how to move away from that situation smartly and remain away from that person throughout its stay in that house.
Help your tween to choose his / her wardrobe for the pyjama party: Tweens will havemyriad variety of clothes in their wardrobe and due to the changing nature of fashion, they will want to wear outrageous clothes just to make their own individual statement. Instead of dwelling upon the fashion sense, work alongside the tween to choose clothes which are comfortable to wear, do not overly expose their body parts, are not flimsy and easy to tear or pull off.
Accompany your tween to the friend’s house: It seems like a tall order for any parent to do so in this fast-paced lifestyle, but it is necessary for the safety and security of your child. This gives the parent an opportunity to visit the place where the child is going to spend the night. They can assess who all are residing in the house, how big is the place, how lonely is the neighbourhood or isolated is the room where the tween will be placed for the pyjama party. Interaction with the host-parent gives the tween's parent ample time to interact with the members of the household, and to understand how the house will be handled with so many youngsters around. Even if you find the lifestyle in that house not up to your standards or levels of social acceptance, make mental notes of it and before leaving your child, gently remind it of certain points explained and rehearsed at home, while reassuring it that if they feel any level of discomfort, he or she can immediately call you to remove it from those premises.
Tell the child that he/she is free to leave any time from the party: Have a small pep talk with your child before you leave from the friend’s house that it is free to leave that sleepover whenever it feels the need to come back home, irrespective of the time. It should be aware that his/her parents are only a phone call away if needed. If the elders of the friend object to such an arrangement, it is wise to explain the situation to the child maturely and remove it from that surroundings without causing anguish to it. It must be emphasized that your child's safety and security comes foremost, even at the cost of disturbing a few social relations.
Be there for the child throughout her stay at her friend’s place: Most children nowadays carry mobile phones. So, keep a small chat going onwith your child (maybe through WhatsApp) when she is at her friend’s place. The child may tell you about the activities they are doing or may totally lie about what mischief they are indulging in, but that being immaterial, it reminds the child that its parents are a phone call away if any emergency arises, as well as gives a timeline to the parents about how was the child in mental and physical health at that point of time. Do not be patronizing or overly stifling by sending out messages like “We miss you baby”, “Don’t do anything stupid”, or “I do not want any complaints from those parents”. Instead send out a SMS/WhatsApp message to them saying “Don’t worry we are there for you, enjoy your stay with your friend.” Do call at the friend’s residence at a reasonable hour at night before everyone retires and have a chat with the friend’s parents inquiring about the get together, as well as with your child asking it if it is comfortable and enjoying the stay. As a precautionary measure, do not keep your own phones on silent or switched off, lest there be a situation wherein you need to visit your child at her friend’s place at odd hours.
Maintain a balance
Children are going to grow up to be socially adaptable for their own survival and benefit in the human society. Allowing the child to explore its own avenues of growth and socialisation is a form of instilling independence in it, but at the same time it is very essential for parents to ensure that the child does not feel left to its own devices to fend off any actions carried out by people who harbour criminal intentions of violating the child’s mind and body for their selfish fulfilments.
- Lt. Col. Omar S. Pathare (retd.), Security Consultant & Founder - FORTIFY