x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

Children need to be taught about what constitutes abuse

It may be an uncomfortable conversation for some, but experts say that it is a parent’s responsibility to discuss child abuse issues with youngsters.

ABU DHABI // Parents should talk to their children about sexual abuse so they will know what is acceptable behaviour from adults, experts say.

It may be an uncomfortable conversation for some, they say, but it is a parent’s responsibility.

“We need to keep in mind what is appropriate and what is not,” said Dr Hussain Maseeh, a social-care expert at the Dubai Community Development Authority.

Dr Maseeh said it was important to reach children in their natural environment, such as in schools. Parents, caregivers and educators should speak to the child.

Teaching children good boundaries and the difference between a friendly touching and improper contact are also important in keeping the child safe from sexual predators, said Dr Veena Luthra, consultant psychiatrist at the American Centre for Psychiatry and Neurology in Abu Dhabi.

“The child should not be confused and should know about a bad touch. They should be trained that if someone tries to touch you to tell a parent, a teacher or an adult around [them]. It is important at the young age, about three years old, because they are going to school,” she said.

By using pictures or dolls, parents can show their children where private parts are. There are also books in story format that parents can read to their children, Dr Luthra said.

Parents must also address the issue in each stage of life with their children, discussing the child’s concerns, said Dr Tara Wyne, clinical psychologist and clinical director at the Lighthouse Arabia clinic.

“With child sexual abuse you’ll have the short-term effects. But even if you are able to get your child counselling or therapy or you really deal with it appropriately at home, you’re going to revisit this at all their developmental stages because they were abused at childhood,” she said.

“It is your job [as parents] to talk about it at different stages and answer their questions and what concerns them. And make sure they have a place where they can safely discuss it and not have to go through crisis because there is nobody to speak to about it.”