What is the first thing that comes to mind when you think about what is considered an unsafe environment for a child? Is it predators and child molesters? Is it pedophiles and people with guns? Is it physical and verbal abuse? Yes, you’re spot on! It’s all of these. But all this comes so much later. The environment in which a child spends most of his time is where he lives. Let me first tell you how a child’s own home can be an unsafe space for him.
1. An Unsafe Home
What is an unsafe home? How can a child’s own home be unsafe? You’re right, it definitely shouldn’t be, but sometimes it is. You may think you are amazing parents and that you have never laid a hand on your child or scolded him, and it still may be an unsafe place for him. Are you asking me how? Let me tell you.
A) Parents Fighting
Does this ring a bell? How many of you have never fought in front of your child? I won’t lie, we all have. But we have to try to never do so in front of our children. Parents are your safe space. More so than your home. They are the closest thing you have to a safety net and when you see your safety net shaking, you get scared. Even if you have never raised your voice in front of your child, they internalize how you, as parents, behave with each other.
Children are very intuitive and they are also extremely flexible. They can handle little squabbles that parents have with each other from day to day. They can understand the difference between squabbles and hatred. A home where a child’s parents are unhappy with each other is an unsafe environment.
I’m just going to go ahead and say it. Any home, that has parents who believe in corporal punishment is an unsafe home. Anyone who thinks beating a child is okay is not okay himself. Anyone who thinks degrading one’s child is fine is not okay and amounts to abuse. Anyone who thinks bullying a child is fine is not okay either. Yes, bullying happens at home too. In fact, that’s where most of the children learn to bully.
Excessively restraining children or letting them be in isolation for long periods of time is also child abuse. Your children are not your property to treat as you please.
C) A Physically Unsafe Environment for Children
Open sockets, loose wiring, sharp objects, and gas lighters within the reach of children. All these make for an unsafe environment. Guns and toolsets within the reach of children only call for danger. To make this better please teach your children about what is safe and what isn’t. If parents or other individuals at home engage in doing drugs, that too makes the home an unsafe environment.
Neglect of the child includes not taking care of the child’s basic needs, exposing the child to extreme temperatures, and just not taking care of the child. Neglect also includes ignoring the child. You may be surprised but there are lots of children that are left to the nannies and maids without any supervision and just neglected in general.
An unsafe home is simply one where a child feels unsafe for whatever reason. It could be perfect but if the child feels unsafe, it is unsafe. A home is supposed to be a safe haven. Please don’t ever let your children feel unsafe at home.
2. An Unsafe School
We send our children to school putting our most precious assets (hopefully) in the hands of the school administration. We expect it to be the next best option. No school is better than an unsafe school. That’s right. Education does not trump the safety of our children.
A) Abusive Teachers
A teacher is supposed to be someone that one looks up to; someone that we can learn from. Unfortunately, there are teachers that engage in verbal abuse and ones that engage in physical abuse and even sexual abuse. There are even teachers who try to abuse their position of power by giving marks according to personal differences. These teachers make the school an unsafe space.
Who hasn’t heard of bullying? Bullying has become so rampant in this day and age. Excessive bullying can have lasting effects on the personalities of children who get bullied and even those who are doing the bullying. The sad reality is that even teachers bully the students at times.
3. An Unsafe Womb
Isn’t this the child’s first home? Shouldn’t this be the safest place? Mostly it is. At least I’d like to believe that every woman protects her unborn child like a lioness protects her cubs. And the lioness is the one who hunts, not the lion. But, I know, sadly, that a womb can be unsafe too.
A womb can be unsafe because the mother isn’t taking care of herself. She isn’t having her medicine, she is drinking alcohol or doing drugs. Maybe she is suffering from depression herself and is engaging in self-harming behavior. Maybe someone like her spouse or someone else is physically or emotionally abusing her. All this trickles down to the unborn child. An unhappy woman is also an unsafe womb.
4. What Else Constitutes an Unsafe Environment?
So far, we have spoken about safe places that can be unsafe. But when the question of “what is considered an unsafe environment for a child” arises, we cannot ignore the elephant in the room. Let’s talk about predators now. And child molesters. And pedophiles. Yes, real people. In reality, people make an environment more scary and unsafe than mere sockets and stoves.
As much as we hate to admit, these people are there and they are growing in number. They all are a part of the environment our children will grow up in. The stories of child rape and child pornography are neverending. How can you trust outsiders when there are stories about sexual abuse happening inside the very homes of the children.
How can we prevent something bad from happening to our children? How can we keep them safe? We have to make sure we build a trust circle and let our children be free in the trust circle. We also have to make sure we let our children know what is safe and what isn’t, what is a good touch and what isn’t, and when to simply walk away.
Sometimes it scares me because I think that we have to let them out in the world without any support one day. Without any “training wheels”. It’s the scariest thought in the world. But what we can do is empower them with the knowledge that can keep them safe. We can teach them when to run and when to call for help. We can also teach them to fend for themselves.
I don’t want to teach my children yet though. I want to just hug them tight and let them know they will always be safe as long as I am around.